The Virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23)
Despite the rise of twitter and Skype and email and FaceTime we still send and receive Christmas Cards. I got mine from the Archbishop the other day. It has got his signature on, but it looks as if it is printed.
Cards can convey love, and affection, respect and courtesy, though all too often we send them because we have to, and we receive some from people we barely know or might even have forgotten. Cards may be important, and still popular, but they can also be very routine, and even empty of any real feelings.
Much better than the card, of course, is the actual visit - when we go and see someone in order to exchange greetings. And instead of an address, written on an envelope, we meet face to face, and address one another by name.
In today’s Gospel we hear of a meeting - well, too meetings. The angel meets Joseph in a dream and tells him of another meeting, when the angel had met Mary, and gave her the great commission from God.
And here too, names are important. In today’s Gospel two of the names of Our Lord are set before us. Jesus - which means God saves, and Emmanuel - which means God-with-us.
And it is the names which tells us what Christ’s coming is all about. He saves us by being with us.
We might reasonably ask the question, why did God come and live amongst us as Jesus. Why did he take flesh? Why did Jesus have to suffer and die for us? Could not God have just acted, just waved his hands like a magic wand and put all sins and sufferings right?
Perhaps. But that would be doing things at a distance, almost disinterestedly, rather like sending a card with a polite greeting to someone we are not really close to. It would be an act of courtesy, but it requires little effort.
But God does more than send a card. He comes to visit. And God does more than visit. He comes to dwell amongst us. He becomes one of us, and shares our joys and sorrows, our cares and our concerns. He takes our sins upon himself. And that is how he saves us.
And today Mary and Joseph stand before us. She was chosen by God to carry Christ and bear him into the world. Joseph is included in the same mission.. They are not like some postman who carries a card, passing on a message or a greeting. They are humanity. Mary, especially, is us - the one who receives this great gift on our behalf, the one who welcomes this wonderful saving visitor.
And he is Emmanuel, God-with-us. He has come to meet us. He knocks at the door. And all we need do is open the door and let him in.