Friday, December 18, 2009

Adventing: O Come, O Come Emmanuel 1

So after Hark the Herald, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is my favorite Christmas carol. Maybe it's a personality thing - it's more solemn, and yet still filled with hope and joy. I feel like it captures the reality of Advent better than any other hymn - waiting in captivity, waiting for ransom, knowing it will come, but not yet seeing it...and here enters the paradox of Christianity: rejoicing in what cannot yet be seen. Such a contrast to the instant gratification culture we live in.

The biblical Christmas story is much darker than we like to remember it. The faith of the characters - Zechariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna, the shepherds and the magi - is admirable only because of the fear and doubt they had to fight. Often we forget how dangerous the story really is. They faced threats to their reputations and their lives, as they threatened the power structure of culture and Herod and Rome.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel is not a happy bubbly song. I like this because often life isn't either.

While it addresses the realities and the harshness of life in this fallen world and the sin we struggle against...
captive, lonely exile, Satan's tyranny, depths of hell, gloomy clouds of night, death's dark shadows, sad divisions also is full of hope.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
free, save, give victory over the grave, Day-spring cheer our spirits, disperse [darkness], open wide our heavenly home, close the path to misery, be the ensign of your people, end our sad divisions, be Thyself our King of Peace.
Joy, as described in the Bible, isn't happy and bubbly.

  • Joy is having lost all family and possessions and wealth and yet declaring "I know my Redeemer lives, and in the end He will stand upon the earth."
  • Joy is sitting in a jail cell, awaiting execution, and encouraging other believers to rejoice and fight the good fight of faith.
  • Joy is dying, not having yet arrived, and yet looking forward to that which is unseen.
  • Joy is coming to earth and enduring the cross, scorning its shame, that the world might be redeemed and reconciled.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel! God is with us! He is here, and He is coming.

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