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December 1, 2015, 11:23 AM

Celebrating Christmas through the Hymns: O Come O Come Emmanuel Part 1


O Come O Come Emmanuel Part 1

          Christmas is coming and music heralds the season. In the grocery store, at the mall, on your car radio, it seems everywhere you go Christmas carols are playing in the background. This special time of year brightens people’s spirits and presents a great opportunity for the Gospel. Just listen to the words of many classic carols. It’s impossible to miss the message of Jesus. Yet somehow, people do miss it. How can this be? Better yet, how can we as members of Christ’s church, amplify the true message of Christmas?

          One solution may be just to meditate and share the amazing lyrics imbedded in these carols. If we as Christians become aware of the richness within our Christmas hymns, perhaps we will be more apt to tell the story to others. Let’s take a look at an ancient carol to see anew the great truths of Scripture. In keeping with the season, we can give these the truths away to others as we remember Christ’s birth.

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

          O Come O Come Emmanuel is an enduring hymn that dates back centuries. While old it is certainly not dated. It continues to speak to our present circumstances. The first verse underlines the human condition. Israel personifies the captivity we all feel. Due to sin, humanity experiences isolation from God. We have all felt it at some point—that deep longing for something more. It is as though each of us is born with a void in our soul. Some try to fill it with temporary pleasure such as sex, drugs, or alcohol.  Others try to crowd out the longing with relationships, work, or even service. We may numb the feeling for a period of time, yet the yearning returns. We are separated from source of our fulfillment. We are isolated from God.

          The Bible tells us the isolation began in Eden after Adam and Eve broke God’s law. According to Scripture, we inherit an inclination toward sin, as a result of Adam’s failure. But don’t get too angry with Adam. The Bible says we all commit sinful acts of our own, sealing our isolated state.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned.” – Rom. 5:12

          The Bible uses the word “sin” to describe breaking God’s law. The Old Testament recounts Israel’s continued failure to keep the law that eventually led to her exile. Our present failures lead to the same state. By rebelling against God’s holy standards, we separate ourselves from our Maker.

          So what’s the solution? Well let’s look at the carol again. Israel’s exile remains in effect until the arrival of the Son of God. This is a surprising solution to the problem. If failure to keep the law leads to exile, one would expect the solution to be obedience. In fact this is the solution offered by most of the world’s religions. Do better, behave better and God will be pleased with you. Remarkably, Israel recognized a deeper truth in her exile. God’s holy law cannot be fulfilled by fallen humanity. We need help!

          According to the Bible God recognized humanity’s inability to keep His law. He knew that our isolation would persist if left to our own devices. Therefore, instead of waiting for us to return to Him, God came to us. Israel’s prophets foresaw a day when God would come in flesh to restore relationship with His people. This is the expectation found in the Christmas carol.

          The Old Testament reserves the title, “Son of God,” for Israel’s king. Jesus came as Israel’s king to fulfill the requirements of the law on behalf of His people. Beyond that, Jesus took the penalty for Israel’s failure on Himself by dying on the cross as a final sacrifice for sin. Jesus’ actions end isolation for those who trust in Him.

          In anticipation of Christ’s work, the carol bursts in to chorus. Rejoice Israel, Emmanuel shall come. Since Emmanuel literally means “God with Us,” the arrival of Jesus signifies the end of separation. Christians can truly rejoice this season, for Emmanuel has come. God in Christ Jesus is with us. Greater still, Emmanuel is coming again.  

-Pastor Andrew Marquez

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