It is no accident that the inaugural sermon that Jesus preached - as recorded in Luke's account of the good news - has as its text Isaiah 6:1-3:
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
The promise of Emmanuel is that we will never be left alone, that God will always be present with us - in us - as we face the challenges of living in these difficult and even dangerous times. The Incarnation, God's choosing to become one with us in our humanity, speaks powerfully to me of God's desire to be God only in realtionship with us - and not only the "us" that we find acceptable, but with all people.
Many years ago, my narrow understanding of God's love was challenged by a poem by the Victorian poet Robert Buchanan. At the end of "The Ballad of Judas Iscariot" Buchanan wrote these lines:
'Twas the Bridegroom stood at the open door,And beckon'd, smiling sweet;'Twas the soul of Judas IscariotStole in, and fell at his feet.'The Holy Supper is spread within,
And the many candles shine,And I have waited long for thee
Before I poured the wine!'The supper wine is poured at last,
The lights burn bright and fair,Iscariot washes the Bridegroom's feet,And dries them with his hair.