They Shall Call His Name “Emmanuel”
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name “Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
We are approaching the beautiful, holy feast day of Christmas—the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ—and I want to send all of our faithful people, across this great Diocese, my blessings and heartfelt love.
On such an occasion, I feel most deeply the urge to be with you: among our wonderful people, praying together, celebrating with one heart the miracle of Christ’s birth. I know that will happen soon.
Being with others is such an important part of Christmas. It’s the season when we most look forward to being with our brothers and sisters, our parents and children, our extended families and loved ones. Being with our fellow church-goers and servants of the Lord.
But that human desire to “be with each other” has an even deeper reality, that is revealed to us in the Gospels. One of the first things we learn about Jesus, even before his birth, is an ancient prophecy recalled by the evangelist Matthew: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name ‘Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.’”
What a beautiful, hopeful idea! “God is with us”: It’s an idea that sets Christianity apart from every other religion or philosophy. It means God is here beside us, experiencing the hope and disappointment, the joy and pain of human life. Through His incarnation in Jesus Christ, God has experienced the life of His creations. He has sanctified that experience. His love magnifies us—blesses each of us as a unique individual.
That name “Emmanuel”—“God is with us”—is a promise that God is not distant, but is truly close to us.
God is with us because He believes in us: He is confident of our capacity to respond to the love He first showed us, through His son Jesus. Through Christ, He has given us a direct pathway to draw near to Him, and experience His merciful, fatherly love.
My friends, that is good news, indeed. It is great good news! That is why we Armenians greet each other on Christmas with the immortal words, “Krisdos dzunav yev haydnetsav—Christ is born and revealed!” And we reply to that greeting with “Tzez yev mez medz avedis—To you and all of us, that is great good news!”
This Good News sustains us against all the bad news of the world. Indeed, it has sustained the Armenian people for generations.
But today, with Christmas before us, we have a question to answer: How should we respond to God’s love? How will you answer His love?
My friends, the answer is not complicated. God doesn’t want or need any extraordinary achievement from us. All He asks from us is to return His love—and share it with others.
When we do that, we have taken our first step towards building a life, a church, a society that is truly worthy of the promise that “God is with us.”
Let us keep that thought before this Christmas, and all the days after. My blessings and prayers are with all of you in this season of hope and peace.
Krisdos dzunav yev haydnetzav! Orhnyal eh haydnootiunun Krisdosee! Christ is born and revealed! Blessed is the revelation of Christ!
Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan January 2023