O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (a meditation on advent)

A lot of Christians have been celebrating Advent throughout December leading up to that time of Christmas. Now while we don’t know the exact day of Jesus’ birth (or really, actual time of year), for centuries many Christians have set aside December 25th as a day to commemorate his birth. While not an event that scripture commands us to celebrate with a holiday as such, it is an event worth remembering this time of year and all throughout.

After all, Jesus’ birth and life (as well as death, resurrection, and ascension) are God’s focal point for all history. Every moment in the world before his birth was designed by God to lead to Jesus. Considered the first gospel prophecy in Genesis 3, Eve was told a son would be born to strike the serpent’s head. And every moment since has moved forward based on Jesus’ life and work, and anticipating yet another advent—his return.

The song O Come, O Come, Emmanuel beautifully captures the great reality that Jesus came to his people to rescue us from sin and reverse the curse. In Isaiah 7, God gave promise that a child would be born named Immanuel (sometimes spelt with an E), and Matthew confirmed that this promise ultimately applied to Jesus—he is Immanuel (Matthew 1:23). Though not his actual name, Jesus’ very presence on earth embodied Immanuel, a term that means God with us.

The birth of Jesus displayed God with us in a physical sense, as the child born to Mary is God the Son. And it displayed God with us in a spiritual sense, in that this was God’s plan to bestow his grace upon his people that we might be delivered from the domain of darkness from our sin and brought into the Kingdom of light (1 Peter 2:9).

And so the second verse of the song explains:

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, o Israel

What awesome cause for rejoicing; what great hope we have!—that Jesus came and broke into the world as light shining in the darkness. By his birth and life, he lived in obedience where we failed. By his death and resurrection, he freed us from the fear and curse of death and pushed away its dark shadows. By his return, our joy shall forever be made complete as all spiritual darkness finally and forever gives way to the eternal joy of light.

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