December 23, 2016 – Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!

Emmanuel. God-with-us. These words are the start of the most radical and unconventional religion. Truly, think about it. We Christians fully believe that God, the divine, almighty, eternal God, became human…..? What prior religious tradition does that fit into? What group of people would that even make sense to? Gods don’t become human. Humans might strive for godhood or perhaps have godlike qualities, but gods and men are two fundamentally different things.

Until Emmanuel. The Incarnation of Jesus is a mystery of mysteries that we are still unfolding and will continue to ponder until Jesus returns again. Think back to our very first antiphon. Jesus, O Wisdom, the Word, is God who existed before the world began and indeed is outside of our concept of time. This same Jesus became a human, born of a woman. He came as the smallest and weakest of all of us, the new shoot from the root of Jesse in the early spring. He heralds the radiant dawn of a new day, a new order of creation. Jesus lived in a historical place and occupied a specific period of time. He walked, talked, ate, worked, celebrated and sorrowed with people every day. Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Jesus is the overabundance of God’s love for His people. The Jewish people had been longing for a savior. We have united our longing with theirs through these antiphons. God fulfilled His promises in an unimaginable way. Instead of simply sending a mighty leader as the majority of Jews expected, God Himself came to save His people.

God continues in His generosity and overabundance. Jesus didn’t simply save the nations from the slavery of sin and death. He also gifted us with His very Body and Blood so that we might continue to be united in communion with Him and one another. He went even further than that. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promised that His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, would come down upon the apostles and remain with them.

God-with-us isn’t just a historical event. Emmanuel isn’t only in the manger.

Jesus, Emmanuel, is the here and now. Even as we anticipate the celebration of Jesus’ birth, do not be fooled into thinking that He isn’t born anew each time you invite Him into your heart.

*** Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook pageDaily Graces.

December 20, 2016 – Open Doors

O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!

We talked about King David yesterday and we find him mentioned here today. The antiphon calls Jesus the Key of David. A key is a symbol of authority. The one who bears the key is capable of opening a door or locking it. Jesus is the one who opened the gates of heaven after they were closed by Adam and Eve’s sin. Jesus is the key.

When we give Jesus authority in our lives we are asking Him to do two things. We are asking Him to open our lives to new possibilities, experiences and people who will help us on our journey of faith. We are also asking Him to close us off from danger and temptations which could harm us. We are not perfect nor is the world perfect, so each of us have experienced times when we felt like a door should have been opened to us that remained locked. We have also experienced times when we felt like there was no way out, that each place we tried was sealed against us. Or perhaps there have been moments where we wish some doors were locked, that there were too many choices and we weren’t sure which one was truly the right one.

This is the beauty and the curse of free will. Jesus knows the way we should go, but we don’t always follow Him through the right door. There was a prayer that my mom would pray when we were growing up (and still does pray today) and I find myself continuing to pray. She would ask God to make the right path easy and the wrong paths difficult. When faced with a decision where she was unsure what to choose, she asked God to remove any obstacles from the way He desired for her. Ben and I have adopted a similar prayer for our family.

When it’s all said and done, we are still broken. Our wills are bent and are inclined to the wrong path. We are all in need of a savior. We are all in need of someone to open wide the gates of prisons we place ourselves in.

*** Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook pageDaily Graces.