Which Emmanuel are you looking for?
"O come, O come, Emmanuel; And ransom captive Israel; That lies in
lonely exile here; Until the Son of God appear; Rejoice, Rejoice, O Israel. To thee shall come
Emmanuel" (7th of the O Antiphons of Advent).
Israel longed for His coming, in fact, the whole world longed for His
coming. But His coming came in a way that neither foresaw.
Rome had many prophecies regarding the coming of a king to rule the
world. This, of course, was nt to their liking. Rome was a Republic (even
if only marginally so under the Caesars), ruled by the Senate, the voice of
the people of Rome. A king would put this rule in danger, in their minds.
Even the Israelis, who saw themselves as suffering under the rule of
Rome (even though Rome allowed Israel to be ruled by King Herod, under
Caesar), longed for a king to come and free them from Rome, to install
Israel to the glory of it's past. A new David, a new Solomon.
This was spoken of in prophecy.
"Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your
voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah, 'Behold your God!' Behold, the Lord GOD
comes with might, and His arm rules for Him; behold, His reward is with Him,
and his recompense before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd, He
will gather the lambs in His arms, He will carry them in His bosom, and
gently lead those that are with young" (Isaiah 40: 9-11).
He will come in might to oppose the might of Rome, rule with a strong arm,
etc. Prophecy said that He would be the shoot from the root of Jesse, and God
would give Him the kingdom of His ancestor David. What else could it mean?
It was natural for mankind to see their savior as a political one. A great
warrior and king. Where else but in royalty would He come? Even Sidhartha
(Buddha) was said to have been born of Indian royalty. Walking immediately
and lotus blossoms blooming wherever he stepped.
It was logical: to end oppression, one needed a political solution. To
stop one king or emperor, you needed another to oppose him.
But God's ways are not our ways. While Israel looked for a political
leader, a warrior king, they missed a small cave used as a stable, and the
great event that occurred there. And the first this great news, this
wondrous gift was proclaimed to wasn't the affluent and powerful, but the weak
and lowly. The shepherds in their fields.
This is the way of the Lord, not power politics. Poverty and humility,
not power and pride. Look through the New Testament. Did Christ confront
Caesar? Did He ever call for his overthrow?
"Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or
not?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, 'Why put Me to the test, you
hypocrites? Show Me the money for the tax.' And they brought Him a coin.
And Jesus said to them, 'Whose likeness and inscription is this?' They said,
'Caesars.' Then He said to them, 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that
are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's'" (Matthew 22:17-21).
Hardly the words for a king bent on saving someone though political means.
These words alienated the Zealots from following Christ. While the Pharisees
tried to use political means to get rid of Him, hoping they could accuse Him
of treason against Rome.
Was He a social revolutionary? In the previous passage above, the
Pharisees and Herodians answered it.
"Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God truthfully,
and care for no man; for You do not regard the position of men" (Matthew 22:
"When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel tax went
up to Peter and said, 'Does not your teacher pay the tax?' He said, 'Yes.'
And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, 'What do you think,
Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons
or from others?' And when he said, 'From others,' Jesus said to him, 'Then
the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and
cast a hook, and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its
mouth you will find a shekel; take that and give it to them for Me and for
yourself'" (Matthew 17: 24-27).
Christ knew the tax was unfair, but did He refuse to pay it? (Though
admittedly He found a singularly unique way of paying it.) He taught:
"Then said Jesus to the crowds and to His disciples, 'The scribes and
the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell
you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind
heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they
themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to
be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes
long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the
synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by
men'" (Matthew 23: 1-7).
Christ knew who the Pharisees were, He knew they were 'whited sepulchres'
(ref. Matthew 23:27) saying all the right things to make people praise them,
even though their hearts were far from God. They imposed laws set by their own
desires rather than God's. In many ways, they are more like dissidents of
today rather than early Christians.
When Christ drove the merchants out of the Temple it wasn't as a social
revolutionary, but rather as one burning with love for God.
"'Take these things away; you shall not make My Father's house a house of
trade' His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for thy house
will consume me'" (John 2: 16-17).
It wasn't just the merchants, the Temple had gone from being a place of
worship of God and remade into a temple to worship man.
But Christ's ways are revolutionary in one respect. They don't conform to
the ways of the world. Christ taught:
"Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
"Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.
"Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.
"Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile
you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice
in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in Heaven;
for so their fathers did to the prophets.
"But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.
"Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.
"Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
"Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to
the false prophets.
"But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate
you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who
strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away
your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to every one who begs from
you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. And as you
wish that men would do to you, do so to them" (Luke 6: 20-31).
So, we have to ask ourselves, which Emmanuel are we looking for? Which do
we hope to see? The political revolutionary? If so, He isn't coming. If
one comes claiming to be Him, beware.
Or are we looking the child? The humble Christ? The Christ born in
poverty, proclaimed to the lowly, who rejected coronation, and, ultimately,
stretched out His hands and arms to be nailed to a cross. But in this way He
freed us. Not from political or social oppression, but from sin and death.
Not in politics or social programs but from changing hearts.
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but
by me" (John 14:6).
So, between the wrappings, the glitter, baubles and lights, think of the
Babe in the manger.
"Jesus, meek and humble of heart. Make my heart like unto Yours."
Pax Christi, Pat