O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (advent meditation)

In this series leading up to Christmas 2016, we’ll take a look at some of the Christmas songs from our Baptist Hymnal and see the reasons we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine Advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadow put to flight
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

The second line of the classic hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, was inspired from Luke 1:78-19. There, Zechariah the priest had been given a promise of his own son (who would be John the Baptist), yet he doubted this promise could be true in his and his wife’s old age. Due to this doubt, Zechariah was made mute until John was born.

Shortly after, “Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied” (1:66). His prophecy exalted God and spoke of the role that John would have as a forerunner to Jesus, the Savior-King. Zechariah said,

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sin in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (1:76-79).

John, then, would point to the coming One who was greater. He would speak of Jesus, in whom people would find forgiveness of sin. This coming forgiveness is pictured as the break of light (dayspring in the song) over the horizon, shining down upon a dark land.

What a beautiful picture to imagine as light chases away the darkness! Thus the coming of Emmanuel, God with us. Sin has ensnared our souls and corrupted the world. Our rebellion against God has justly deserved his wrath, seen first in physical death and second in spiritual.

We often think: There must be more to life! We long for death to not be the end. Yet death stands there, an inescapable enemy that darkens our lives, either taking the young too soon or the old after the body has spent so much time suffering and breaking down. Our sin traps us in a dark land; death casts its shadow over each of us.

Yet, the light has dawned. Jesus came to give hope to the hopeless, to bring those who lived in darkness into his marvelous light. Jesus was born into this world to die on a cross, the sacrifice for our sins in our place, and to then kick down the door of the grave.

Even if we die, Jesus said in John 11, so long as we are trusting in him, we shall live. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He rescues us from our sin and rebellion, and he gives us new life now and forevermore.

And so the song calls us to cheer. The gloomy clouds are gone. The dark shadow of death is put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice!—is this not the proper response along with humble thankfulness to God through Jesus? The Savior-King has come. Let us rejoice and bask in his light!

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