O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

“Journey to Bethlehem”
Joseph Brickey, ca. 1973

So, what does it mean to say “God With us”?  The name, Immanuel, that the child is to be given is a symbolic name, a short Hebrew sentence.  We like the idea of God being here to pull us out of our next quandry in life in which we will find ourselves.  But isn’t it more than that?  God has finally, after an entire history of generations of humanity, sought us out.  In essence, God put aside, if only for a little while, all God-liness, to come and join our little world.  God breaks into humanity not with a triumphant shout but into one of the lowliest, one of the most god-forsaken, one of the most human places of all.  Our image of this patriarchal God sitting on a golden throne somewhere up in the clouds looking down upon this struggling world just doesn’t work anymore.  The God who we could not see, the God who we could not name, the God into whose face we could not look or surely we would die has just become one of us. So what do we do now?

When I was little, I used to lay in bed (when I was supposed to be asleep) and think about the notion of God being “everywhere”.  Well that was something that I just couldn’t get my head around.  I mean, there had to be limits.  There had to be a place where God could not see me.  So I would pull the covers over my head and try to figure out if God could see me there.  We all do that, if only figuratively.  Oh, we SAY that God is with us, we SAY that God walks with us, but then we try to find a temporary hiding place from this God who is “up there” or “out there” or wharever “there” we think God is.  After all, it’s kind of like living with your boss, isn’t it?   I saw a bumper sticker a couple of years ago that read “God is coming.  Look busy!”  Oh, we laugh, because it’s way too close to the way we think!  I mean, we’re all so wrapped up in our lives.  There’s just so little time.  There’s just too much going on!  And the world is changing so rapidly.  It’s not like it used to be.  But we’ll keep working to get to God.  Well, SURPRISE!  God came to us.  Not only that, God came WITH us, entering into the bottom of our house of cards that is our world.  So, it seems now, “getting to God” is really no longer necessary.  Maybe we just have to open our eyes, and hold out our hand, and, oh yeah, it helps if you don’t have the covers pulled over your head!

Modern-Day Israel just outside of the Region of Galilee

Mary and Joseph are journeying toward Bethlehem, silently walking through the dust and sands.  This trip was not convenient but they had no choice.  It normally takes four days or so but it is difficult for Mary to travel.  The world is crazy right now, busy and spinning out of control.  Everything is changing.  There is talk of some unrest and some skirmishes up ahead.  This is not the time to be traveling.  This trip is dangerous.  But they have to keep going.  There’s a baby coming!

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, 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!

O come, O come, great Lord of might, who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times once gave the law in cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, thou Root of Jesse’s tree, an ensign of thy people be; 
before thee rulers silent fall; all people on thy mercy call.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, thou Key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home.
The captives from their prison free, and conquer death’s deep misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, thou Dayspring, come an dcheer our spirity by they justice here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Desire of nations bind all people in one heart and mind.
From dust thought brought us forth to life; deliver us from earthly strife.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

(9th century Latin, with translations by Laurence Hull Stookey; vs. 2 by Henry Sloane Coffin, 1916)

The time is almost here!  In this final week of Advent, give yourself the gift of pulling away everything that clouds your view that you might see the God who Comes.

Grace and Peace,


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