It’s one of those tunes, haunting as it is hallowing. It’s a melody that quickly reminds one that it’s not yet the celebration of Christmas but soon will be. “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel” – one is as likely to hear this medieval chant sung in the sanctuary as projected from your Sirius FM radio. Though its lyrics are steeped in Christian promise and fulﬁllment, it remains a staple of what is among many now called “holiday music.” And this ancient lyric – God-with-us, come! – is a bold and urgent prayer. In fact, in our “holiday seasons” that seem to be inevitably crunched for time, this prayer’s urgency dwarfs our perceptions of urgency. It’s the urgency of emancipating slaves!
At Christmas we celebrate a phenomenal miracle of God, the True Son of God born into human ﬂesh. That cool, dark evening some 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, God sent His Son to be born of young virgin Mary. He was born to live out God’s holy law’s demands. His perfection under the law ﬁlls up our lawlessness so that we might receive full adoption into God’s family (Galatians 4:4-5). Emmanuel came to the manger for this purpose. And what began in the manger proceeded to its summit – to Calvary’s cross where Jesus makes the payment for sin complete. He declares it himself: “It is ﬁnished.”
The Son of God came lowly to the manger. He lived humbly among sinners. He died as the Just for the unjust, buying us back from our self-dug graves. And then he rose again, Victor over Satan and death itself, ascending triumphantly back to heaven…
…But we’re still here. We live with consciences that are like a vast library, stacks full of guilty recollections. One news broadcast will be more than enough to remind you that you live in a world where the Devil roams and exercises his terror. The effects of sin’s tyranny are palpable in us (Romans 7) and all around us (Psalm 94). So even as we anticipate the joyful bells of Christmastide, this life remains a captivity – an exile – a starkly imperfect home away from home. And it will be this way – until the Son of God appears!
The Emmanuel of the manger, cross, and empty tomb is the Emmanuel who is also poised to come again for the reclamation of His redeemed. And so His redeemed bride, the Church, cries out with anticipation, “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel!” With this cry, you, the bride, boldly hold the Lord to His promise to bring this rescue to its perfect culmination. You call upon Jesus to appear again for you – to ransom you from this sinful body and life. And then, on that Great Day, Jesus will be the One calling for you to come: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you…” (Matthew 25:34).
Dear Christian friends, Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel will come for you. “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
Scripture: Isaiah 35:10
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Hymn: ELH 110, 1
O Come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Lord, rouse us from apathy toward the Last Day. Give us such hope and comfort in Jesus, who has already redeemed us from sin and death, that we long more and more for His promised return to ransom us from this veil of tears to Himself in heaven. Amen.
Rev. Kyle Madson
Editor, The Lutheran Sentinel
Norseland Lutheran Church
St. Peter, MN
Norwegian Grove Lutheran Church