O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

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For centuries they waited.  The children of Israel longed for the Messiah, long prophesied.  Isaiah declared that one day a virgin would conceive and bear a son, and His name would be called Emmanuel – God with us (Isaiah 7:14).

Perhaps nothing has more perfectly captured the longing of God’s chosen people than the 12th century hymn, based on an 8th century poem, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”:

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.

It is difficult for us who live on this side of the incarnation to understand the depth of emotion held in the sentiment expressed in that lyric.  Many of us were raised in Christian homes and were taught from a young age who Jesus is and what His birth meant.  And we indeed rejoice that Emmanuel has come.

But just because we know that Emmanuel has come, it does not diminish our cry for Him.  No matter how we were raised or what we were taught, each of us was born in need of a Savior, and each of us must invite Emmanuel into our own lives to redeem us from hell and death:

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.

At times, even for the believer, this fallen world is seen for the dark place that it is.  Sometimes our circumstances bring our spirits down, and we struggle to see the light of God.  In those times, we need Emmanuel to minister to our souls:

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Thy people 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.

No matter how long we have walked with Jesus, we know that we need His wisdom day by day as we seek to “walk in the light as He is in the light”.  We ask Emmanuel to come along beside us and show us the way:

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.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

We see all around us the effects of sin.  Our country is sharply divided, and conflicts rage around the world.  We try our best to address these problems through government and social outreach.  But the truth is that there is no peace without the Prince of Peace:

O come, Desire of Nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease;
And be Thyself the King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

In this advent season, as we remember how Jesus came to fulfill the longing of ancient Israel, let us pray that Emmanuel would meet the needs of our world – for salvation, for comfort, for wisdom, and for peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chairman

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