This series combines a study of God’s Word with a Christmas carol or song. This week’s song is John Mason Neale’s English translation of the ancient hymn “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
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). —Matthew 1:23 NIV
Have you ever longed for someone to return to you? I sure have. I remember the Christmas spent apart from my husband, Ray, during the Persian Gulf War. I was in Germany with two little girls, far from my family and my country, while my husband was in a war zone with Scud missiles falling nearby. Oh, how I wanted him home again safe and sound! The days were hard, but the nights were the worst. I literally ached for him, yearning for his return.
I remember the day, months later, when the war was finally over. I was sitting with our two daughters in the bleachers of a big warehouse-type building waiting for Ray and his battalion to enter the hall. Three hours we waited, and it felt like three months. When he finally appeared and held us all close to his heart, I was practically shaking with relief. I can still feel the strength of his arms wrapped tightly around me and our girls. Oh, the sweetness of that moment. It’s etched deeply into my mind and my memory. What joy. What relief. What peace to have him home at last.
What must it have been like to live in Israel in the days before Jesus was born? I can just imagine living under Roman rule, never feeling completely free or safe. What a permanent state of cautiousness that would create. When passages were read in the synagogue about the coming Messiah, did the listeners’ hearts yearn with hope and longing for His coming? Did the wait seem interminable and unending? When would He come and set the captives free?
Oh, joy … come He did. God in human form. Born to die, so He could save us from ourselves. He came and lived among His people. He who had lived in unapproachable light and glory experienced life in a body. He felt pain and sorrow. He felt tired and cold and hungry. He was dependent on others. He came and did, indeed, “ransom captive Israel”—and us as well.
The darker the days become, the more I feel that yearning and longing grow in me yet again. Only this time, it’s a longing for the day when Jesus returns, and God Himself will be with us once more. Christmas is a time to remember that first coming, when He came to ransom us from sin and death … and it’s a time to remember that He will come again. The darkness will be vanquished, and a new reign will begin—and never end. Oh, what a day that will be!
Oh, Lord, we yearn for Your coming and for the time when You will set all things right. We long for that day when the earth will be renewed and restored. We imagine with joy the moment when we see You high and lifted up and lay our crowns at Your feet. As we remember Your first coming, we long for Your second coming. Come, Lord Jesus, Come! In Your Name, Amen.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel
You are loved,
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