“All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1: 22-23
Growing up I don’t remember my parents playing a lot of music in the house, but at Christmas time that changed. We listened to Christmas music non stop from Thanksgiving all the way through opening presents on Christmas morning. My mom had an album that was one of her Christmas favorites and it got played at least once a day: Amy Grant’s “Home for Christmas.” The album had one particular song, “Emmanuel, God with Us”, that has left a lasting mark on my Christmas theological reflection.
Many Christmas songs are either completely secular (focusing on the family traditions and seasonal beauty) or completely religious (focusing on the birth of Jesus), but this song bridges the two topics. The first verse calls to mind the beauty of decorations and holiday ambiance paired with family gatherings and story telling, then draws us in to the reason for our celebrations— the birth of Jesus. The second verse reminds us that God is still very much ‘With Us,’: “And still he [Jesus] calls through the night beyond the days of old. A voice of peace to the weary ones who struggle with the human soul.” The final verse sums up the struggle of this season for many: “And the years they come, and the years they go, though we may forget somehow that the child once born in Bethlehem is still among us now.” That forgetting is far too easy. We flood our season with shopping lists and festive parties that can at times cloud our vision of God’s involvement in all of this.