Fourth Sunday in Advent

O Emmanuel, you are our king and our law-giver,
the One whom the peoples await and their Saviour.
O come and save us, Lord, our God. (23rd December)

As we continue our preparation for Christmas and the Year of the Holy Name of Jesus (2014), we look at the O Antiphon for 23rd Dec. All of these special titles illuminate the character and mission of Jesus. Today’s title is very consoling. Emmanuel means that God is with us. No matter what we do or where we are, He is there. As St Paul puts it so beautifully, no matter what we go through, “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ” (Romans 8).

However, we need to bring to mind the kind of king Jesus is, and the price that He paid to save us. The Gospel for the feast of Christ the King was Luke’s account of the Crucifixion. Bishop Martin Drennan beautifully contrasted different attitudes of the two thieves in the face of this king who is our Saviour:

“Central to the account of the events is the inscription that states Jesus is king. He is king for those open to accept his gift of salvation. One of the criminals seeks to exploit the power Jesus has as the Christ with his self-serving plea, ‘Save yourself and us as well.’ Jesus never allowed himself to be used by others. He does not change now. Luke then brings us to the second criminal. He knows his need, makes no excuses for himself but pleads with honesty and humility. In the gospels he is the only one who addresses Jesus by that name, a name which means saviour. He is promised the fullness of salvation by Jesus, by the One whom he welcomes into his life as king and saviour in a personal way.” He continued:
“Pope Francis says that today we need witnesses, Christians who reawaken the attraction for Jesus Christ, for the beauty of God, Christians whose lives raise questions. Why do they live like this? What fires them? Credible witnesses, those who have been healed and made whole by meeting Christ as their king, make the gospel visible and attractive.”

As we prepare to meet Emmanuel, our infant king this Christmas, what is our stance? Will our prayer be a self-serving plea, or will we recognise Jesus as our Saviour and, acknowledging that we are sinners, call on His name with trust in His great mercy?