"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"
One of my favorite Christmastime traditions is staying up after my family goes to bed, and sitting reflectively alone. The house is quiet and dark, the tree is lit, and I sip my tea as I listen to the most somber Christmas music I can find. Preferably "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" arranged by Andrew Bell, or the arrangement of "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day." by Casting Crowns.
But my favorite Christmas song to listen to in that somber state is "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." It is breathtakingly beautiful, and everything about this song haunts my soul. It's so deliciously sad and yet it's unexpectedly hopeful. It's perfect! (If you've never heard this arrangement below before take a listen! You won't be sorry.)
But even more powerful than the music are the lyrics.
"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."
As you listen to these words you can almost envision the desperation of a pre-Christ world. A place that was stained with sin, filled with death, and the promise of a savior left unfulfilled. How abandoned the Jews must have felt. How fervently they must have mourned for a savior, and then one night everything changed. A savior had been born.
"O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan's tyranny From depths of Hell Thy people save And give them victory o'er the grave Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel."
Through that Savior's death and resurrection, the broken world found redemption and renewed purpose. God's people now had a reason to rejoice!
What I love most about this song is that it still applies. Although Christ died and triumphed over death, we still live in a world stained with sin. We still face brokenness, war, and evil. We have loved ones who die of cancer, the threat of terrorism is a present danger, and we all have broken and bruised relationships. This world is a mess.
Living in this in between time is hard. It's a time where God's Kingdom is fulfilled through Christ's death and resurrection and yet it is not fully established here on earth. It's a time where we are crying out, just like the Jews did so long ago, for Emmanuel to come and make things right.
"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. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel."
And like this song says, we still need to rejoice! Even when life seems to be bursting at the seems we must still rejoice, because our Savior has come, and he will come again! No matter what we face, whether that be sickness, or war, or loss, we can rest assured that one day the gloomy clouds of night will be put to flight for forever! Death's dark shadows will be destroyed, and we will live in fellowship with God, and with each other, in a new Heaven and Earth. That gives me enough hope to get through the darkest of days. That is what Christmas is all about: Hope!
Soon I'll be back in Ohio sitting in that dimly lit living room, staring at the tree, drinking my tea, and most likely dissecting a new Christmas song. Merry Christmas!