O Come, O Come Emmanuel

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” 

Historians believe this was originally sung in Latin in the 8th or 9th century, translated by John Mason Neale in 1819. 

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel, to Free your captive Israel. 

That mourns in lonely exile here. 

Until the son of God appear. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel. 

To you shall come Emmanuel.”- Adaptation by Enya. 

Emmanuel is the Hebrew, for God is with us and reminds us that we should never forget. God is with us. God is with us through everything we might experience this holiday season. As we enter this most Holy Season of waiting to celebrate the birth of Christ, we can do this with joy, but we should also do this in prayer for the people of the world. A quick online search will show us there are famines, floods, wars, governments in turmoil, and housing crises’ around the world.

Still, God is with us. God is with those who have lost loved ones in war and those in battle. God is with the people experiencing famine and floods and those attempting to provide relief. God is with the governments in turmoil; God is with those living in corrupt systems and those working to change the systems of injustice. God is with the housing insecure, the landlords, and those working to bring adequate housing to everyone in their communities. God is with the lonely and the depressed, and the broken-hearted. God is with those experiencing peace and joy. God is with the comfortable. God is with us. 

Advent means “coming” in Latin and marks the beginning of our Christian liturgical year and the season before Christmas. It’s a time for us to focus on the meaning of the birth of Christ. The Presbyterian Mission agency reminds us, “In Advent, we expectantly wait for the one who has already come. We anticipate the promised justice of God’s new world, yet we praise God who raised the “righteous branch” to rule with justice and righteousness.” Advent reminds us that our God is not just a God of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Our God is a God of Justice. 

It’s not Justice for Just us. It’s not justice for Christians only. It’s justice for the world. It’s justice for the marginalized and the dispossessed. It’s justice for the poor and the working poor. It’s justice for the migrant. It’s justice for those the world might call unsavory. It’s justice for the least of these. 

We wait for Jesus. A baby, born in a world in turmoil, whose. His parent’s migrants fled to a strange land they would later call home. Jesus was a regular traveler to unfamiliar places that were not his home. It’s a plight not unlike what many migrants face today, desperately fleeing war-torn countries and countries experiencing famine, natural disasters, and corrupt governments. It’s a story that lives with many but few talk about, choosing instead to assimilate. Though the lines between countries and people are becoming increasingly blurred due to global migration, migration is still happening, under cover of darkness and in the dead of winter. Migration will happen this Christmas. 

As followers of Christ, our focus is not just on the Christmas season; throughout every season we experience, we have to look toward radical hospitality. In her book Just Hospitality, Letty Russell says, “Hospitality is the practice of God’s welcome by reaching across differences to participate in God’s actions bringing justice and healing to our world in crisis.” 

It suggests that we have a role in bringing justice to our world and that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will work through us even if we don’t allow and welcome this work, and we are only able to do this with love. Through the birth and life of Jesus, we learn to love and are challenged by Jesus to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. A difficulty when there is so much self-loathing in the world leads us into literal and metaphorical darkness. 

We don’t have to remain in darkness. In the darkness of our world, we can shout with our mouths and spirits, “Emmanuel!” God is with us. Because though we wait for the light of Christ to come, the light also exists inside us, making us ready for the work of radical hospitality and love. We can shout while we wait. We wait for the coming of one who has already come and will come again; we pause before beginning our celebration of the birth of the one that saves us and makes it possible for us to experience hope, peace, joy, and love amid the difficulties of the world. 

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”.

By Rev. Dr. Michelle Lewis

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