I have sung that song every Advent of my entire life thus far. I love that song. But I have never sung it like I did this time. Usually, when I sing it, I think of it in a historical context. I always picture the Jews during their captivity. They were exiled because of their repeated sins and their disregard for God. They chose to live by what was right in their own eyes. They ignored repeated warnings from the prophets to change their behavior and turn their hearts back to God. They didn’t. So they were disciplined.
And then they were waiting. Praying for that Someone who would come and ransom them. Someone to save them from themselves. Someone to turn their mourning in lonely exile to dancing with shouts of joy in the Promised Land. Years of suffering under governments that oppress and persecute them. And then, Emmanuel comes. They are told to rejoice because they have their prophesized Messiah. He came to you, O Israel! Yes, that is what the song is about. But, I’ve been singing it wrong for years.
Tonight, I sang this song to my son while we rocked. I started it off as I always do. Singing it as a tradition. As a way to remember the coming of Our Savior as a baby at Christmas. Reverent of the history of our Lord. As an Advent tradition. But at some point I realized…I was praying it. Praying for Christ to come to us, again.
“Come, O Come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.”
The song suddenly became very relevant to me and I realized that this is how we were meant to sing the song. As a prayer. I thought of us. Our world. I thought of shootings. Terrorism. Poverty. Hunger. Sickness. Evil. Death. It’s morbid, but that’s what covers my newsfeed every day! Like the Israelites, people in our world today continue to do what it is right in their own eyes and disregard God. We don’t like to call it sin anymore, lest we offend anyone. But, sin’s effects are obvious to everyone. And evil is still alive and well.
Have you ever noticed how at Christmas time, evil feels even more wrong than usual? It seems to upset us more than at other times of the year. For example, we’ll hear that something terrible happened and say something like, “Oh, and so close to Christmas! How sad!” Or, “How could someone do something like that at Christmas time?” If it is truly horrible and sad, it should be horrible and sad no matter what time of year it happened.
My theory is that we feel evil so deeply at Christmas because it is in stark contrast to what we know we should be feeling at Christmas. Joy. All that pain is proof that we know something. Even though Jesus came to us as a baby at Christmas time, even though He paid the price for our sins on the cross we know that the world is still not right.
BUT IT WILL BE! And because He came the first time, HE IS WITH US. Emmanuel. We have hope because we have His promise that He will be with us through it all.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” -John 14: 1-3
“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:20
And so at Christmastime, we are thankful for Emmanuel. That God is with us!
But because the world is still not right, we pray,
“Come, O Come Emmanuel…again.”