During advent this year, I am writing a series of posts about some of my favorite Christmas Hymns. If you want more context, you can read my introductory post, Why I Love Christmas Hymns first. The first week week, I wrote about the song "O Come, All Ye Faithful." Last week, we looked at Silent Night, Holy Night. This week, its O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
Waiting in Anticipation
This song is all about waiting, and in that waiting, calling for the Emmanuel to come. There was a longing present among the people of Israel that is hard to fully express. They were a people who had known the presence of God. Who had seen his wondrous deeds in the exodus from Egypt, as God performed miracle after miracle to free them from oppression and give them the promised land. They had seen God's provision as He created a great nation and as they saw the great King David rise to his throne. This was a people who knew the goodness of God.
They were also a people who walked away from God and knew the exile that ensued. They were a people who had been taken from their lands and brought captive to a land that was not their own. Their temple had been destroyed, and the new temple lacked the greatness of the first. They were a people who had heard for generations that God would be sending a savior, a messiah, who would save His people. They waited for this messiah, like a child waits for their father to return from a long days work. They waited for their savior like a wife waits for her husband to come home from war. They waited...
And then he came. But not like people thought he would come. He came in humility. Born as a baby. Born into poverty. But born a King nonetheless. This song is about the waiting, the call for the savior to come, and the peace he brought to the world.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel. [Refrain]
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
And order all things, far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
And cause us in her ways to go
O come, Desire of nations
bind all peoples in one heart and mind
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease,
Fill all the world with heaven's peace
Until the Son of God appear
The first verse is a reminder of the waiting. They were morning in "lonely exile." They were exiled from their God and many were exiled from their land. And not just any land, but the promised land. They were captive to the world's rulers and the world's ways - until the Son of God appeared. God had come to set them free!
What are you being held captive to this Christmas? What chains are binding you?
God has come in the person of Jesus to set us free. He has come to deliver us from our sin and to bring new life.
Bind all peoples in one heart and mind
Jesus came to free people from their sins. That is the primary way he has brought salvation to our lives. But he also came to bring peace. He is the great uniter. Jesus came in humility. He came to serve, not to be served. Jesus came not as an overpowering and conquering king, but as a humble and meek king.
Jesus invites us to be servant-hearted leaders. Rather than find ways to exert your power or authority over others, find ways to bend your knee, humble yourself and get dirty in service to others. This is one of the ways he will bind all peoples in one heart and mind, when God's people are willing to give up on their preferences in the service of others. This is one of the ways he fills all the world with "heaven's peace."
How can you serve someone else this Christmas? It might be really small, but it could make a world of difference in that one person's life.
And death's dark shadows put to flight
The light of Jesus has caused the dark shadow of death to flee. Jesus has brought light to a dark world. He has brought life to a place of death and decay. Like yeast, it takes time to work through the dough of lives and societies. We still see the stain of death all around us, but we know that there is hope in this world.
The great Emmanuel has come. At Christmas we celebrate his coming. And as we sing, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," we do so with joyful hearts, because we know that he has already come. We also do so with longing hearts as we wait for Jesus to fully and finally complete the redemption he has begun.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel video
Here is a video of Shane and Shane singing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. The quality of the video isn't amazing, but the song is! I hope you enjoy this song as we quickly approach Christmas!