Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
It seems like we are never satisfied with a story, we always want to know more, to get at what is behind the story, the real meaning.  That is why Paul Harvey’s “The rest of the story” was so popular.  Today’s Gospel is an interesting story, a theological explanation to assure early Christians that Jesus was divine, the Son of God, without a human father.  But is that all?  What is “the rest of the story” for us, what is the message for us?

Three thoughts from three different lines in the Gospel:  First, This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about; Second, you are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins; Third, they shall name him Emmanuel which means “God is with us.” 

This is more than just a story about how the birth of Jesus came about; it is the story of how we are to give “birth” to Jesus in our lives, in our world.  The story that started more than 2,000 years ago with a simple “yes” by Mary continues today only with our “yes”, with our being open to allow the Holy Spirit to “impregnate” our lives.  That is not easy.  Remember when the Holy Spirit entered Mary’s life and body it was a scandal, an unwed mother, shameful.  And this shame and scandal doesn’t end with Jesus’ birth.  Mary would again be considered shameful when she stood at the foot of the cross where her son died a criminal’s death.  Unfortunately, when we bring Christ into our world we may be faced with the same embarrassment and shame. In a world where 60% of people view abortion as simply a choice, pro-life stances are viewed as “shameful” and restrictive.  In a world of political correctness, viewing marriage as a lifelong union of a man and a woman is considered “shameful” and out of touch.  In a world that outlaws public prayer, those urging religious freedom are considered “shameful” and old fashioned.  Bringing Jesus into our world can be embarrassing and shameful.  The only way we can do it is with great faith.  Faith that in the end God is in charge and as the angel said, do not be afraid.

That simple phrase, Name him Jesus” is no casual statement.  Jesus is the Greek form of our English name Joshua which literally means Yahweh saves.  That name celebrates the God that brought Israel out of slavery, the God that conquered Israel’s enemies.  But this Jesus will not save the people from the oppression of Rome.  No, this child will save his people from their sins.  That is the heart of the Christmas message.  God so loved us that He himself, the timeless one, entered time, wrapped Himself in human flesh for one reason only - to save us from sin and death.  But it took the “yes” of Mary to accomplish this and it takes our “yes” to accomplish the salvation of today’s world.  And if you have any doubt that this world needs saving, pick up the newspaper and just read the front page.

Finally, “‘and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means ‘God is with us.’”  This is God’s divine plan, the way Jesus will save His people from their sins.  He is “Emmanuel - God with us.”  Forgiveness of sins is the effect of God’s presence.  That is a very powerful statement.  Forgiveness of sins is the effect of God’s presence.  Every time we approach this altar with our hands cupped and say “Amen” to “The Body of Christ” we are the “they” calling Christ Emmanuel, God with us.

As we prepare for Christmas, Scripture reminds us that we are “the rest of the story.”  It is only our “yes,” our willingness to be impregnated by the Holy Spirit, that will bring Christ into a world so in need of His presence.  That “yes” can be costly, embarrassing, shameful at times.  But without our “yes” God cannot save His people.  Where will we find the courage, the strength to say yes?  At this altar where Emmanuel is truly with us and in us as we join Christ’s body to ours.