Remember that Christmas song we sometimes sing? “O come, O come Emmanuel”? The gospel of Matthew introduces Jesus in the very first chapter as “Emmanuel” and, in the Hebrew, it means “God with us.” So, according to Matthew, God comes to us in Jesus, in this wandering teacher from northern Palestine, from a place called Galilee.
The amazing thing about this is that Galilee is considered the back woods of ancient Palestine. It was a bunch of small villages and two bit towns with poor farmers and fishermen.
The gospel reminds us that God comes to us, not in Rome, the political center of the day; not in Jerusalem, the religious center, but in Galilee, where he grew up and spent most of his ministry. Of all the places God could have revealed himself, God chooses Galilee.
There is one more thing to know about Galilee.
It, like the rest of the region, was under the rule of the Roman Empire. Galileans, it seems, were a freedom loving people and they were constantly resisting Roman rule. It is said that the roads leading from Galilee south into Jerusalem were often lined with crosses — every time there was a rebellion, every time a Roman governor wanted to make a point. The Galileans suffered tremendously under Roman rule.
And on one of these backwater hillsides, Jesus draws a large crowd around him, and he gives what we call the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount — the longest recorded sermon given by Jesus. Jesus looks at the men and women and children of Galilee — these peasants and these farmers and these fisherfolk — and he says; “You are blessed. You might be poor now. You might be mourning now. You might not own your own land now. But you are blessed in the kingdom of God. You will be comforted. You will inherit the earth.
“You — you who are told that you are worth nothing, who are told you are at the bottom of the social and economic heap— you are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth.”
Can you imagine how important, how revolutionary those words must have been?
These words speak to us, now, here, today. The God who came to us in the tiny villages of Galilee comes to us here, today, in the small towns of the Harbor. In all of these little towns that most people can’t find on the map, God comes.
Blessed are you, Aberdeen and Monte, Elma and Cosi, you are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth.
I invite you to remember that God does indeed come to us, here and now; that whatever we are going through, God is with us; that we are called to live in light of that.
The Rev. Sarah Monroe serves as deacon at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Aberdeen and ministers alongside people living on the street with Chaplains on the Harbor.