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Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name Him Emmanuel. Isaiah 7:14 (NABRE)

Series Focus: “The Hope of Christmas”

In the bare, dark sanctuary, the haunting singular notes introducing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” piped from the fingers of the organist. The voices of my church family and a few strangers rose from the pews in united song, bidding the Lord come. As the words rolled off the hymnal and out of my mouth, my spirit suddenly realized the horrific emptiness of a world without Jesus.

Verse 1 of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” reads:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

God delivered the Israelites from Egypt and brought them into the Promised Land. Through centuries of time, opposing nations had taken the people captive and divided the nation. Separated from each other and from God during the Babylonian exile, the Israelites mourned in expectant hope for God to return to them. Many clung to the covenant God had made with Israel—to be their God—to dwell with, lead, provide for, and protect them.

As the Israelites suffered in loneliness, darkness, and torment, Isaiah foretold of the coming of the Lord (Isaiah 7:14). God’s promise to rescue and redeem would be fulfilled in the birth of a baby. We read the confirmation of this prophecy through Joseph’s dream in Matthew 1:23 (NABRE):

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” 

Christ entered the world in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet without sin, to be with the people, to redeem them, and to provide salvation for all. This story of redemption didn’t just unfold in the books of Isaiah and Matthew. Weaved from the beginning of time to its end, and throughout the pages of the Bible, we witness God’s love, light, and salvation for all people.

The song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” tells this story, stanza by stanza. In Verse 1, regardless of the dark and lonely exile, He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is Wisdom from on high in Verse 2, leading us and teaching us in righteousness. Verse 3 declares He is the Lord of Might clothed in majesty. Connecting His ancestral lineage, Verse 4 refers to Jesus as the Branch of Jesse, providing rescue and victory. Echoing scriptures in Isaiah and Revelation, Verse 5 of the song identifies Emmanuel as the Key of David, granting our entry into Heaven. Verse 6 exclaims He is the Bright and Morning Star, or the Daystar on high, translating us from darkness to light. Verse 7 proclaims He is the King of Nations and our King of Peace. Finally, the chorus of the song rejoices in the truths of the salvation story and God’s faithfulness to perform His promises.

A strict timeline of Old to New Testaments does not confine this carol, however. The message applies to any life apart from Christ this very moment—today—and begins its journey as that soul receives Jesus as Savior. Whether in doubt, unbelief, sin, or lack of knowledge, many don’t know Jesus as Emmanuel. Even life circumstances cause believers to “feel” separated from God. Yet, there is hope. Christmas came for the world to experience God with us. And nothing can separate us from Him.

As the melodic voices rose in that dark sanctuary so many years ago, tears streamed down my cheeks. The realization of those in exile—apart from the presence of God in our past and present—impacted my heart tremendously. The story of ransom, rescue, redemption, salvation, love, light, and peace progressed through verses and the chorus grew from quiet hope to unwavering trust. Light filled the sanctuary and exuberant praise erupted in the last chorus:

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel!

The faithful truths of scripture and the comfort of Almighty God displace the sorrow of overwhelming circumstances. Though your song this season may begin in solemn stillness and lonely wondering, be steadfast to focus on the Promise. God is the same forever. The Hope of Christmas is Emmanuel: God with us. Not just as a babe in the manger so many years ago, but as our Lord of Might, Key of David, the Daystar on High, the King of Nations, and our Prince of Peace. Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to you.

Holding Fast to Hope,

Scripture References: Genesis 17; 2 Kings 17, 24,25; Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, 11:1, 14:12, 22:22; Matthew 1:23; Romans 8:35-38; Hebrews 13:8; Revelation 3:7, 15:13, 17:14, 22:16


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