“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
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
Advent is here. Some of you may be anxious to get to Christmas. (With all the music on the radio, the decorations in your house, and the colorful lights all over the place already, it may feel like Christmas is here.) But for followers of Jesus, there’s something that’s not here yet. Christmas hasn’t officially arrived, and that’s okay. (Don’t worry. It’ll come. I promise.) But before we get to Christmas, it’s worth us pausing to reflect on the things we remember and wait for during the season of Advent.
The word, “Advent” comes from Latin roots meaning “to come to” or “to arrive.” The four-week season leading up to Christmas is our time to focus on the coming of Jesus. There are two parts to this: Advent is a time for us to celebrate Jesus’ first coming on that Christmas in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, but it’s also a time for us to anticipate His second coming.
Maybe you’ve experienced some of the cool things followers of Jesus can do during Advent. Many churches and families light an Advent wreath. Some hold special worship services. Across the globe, followers of Jesus sing songs unique to this season. One of the more popular Advent songs we have is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” This hymn goes back centuries and serves as a helpful guide for prayer and devotion during Advent. Many Christians have used this hymn especially in the seven days before Christmas Eve.
Notice the opening line of the first verse. “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” What are we asking when we say this? We are asking for God to come and be with us. The name Immanuel, that name foretold by the prophet Isaiah, means “God with us.” We, alongside multitudes of faithful people all over the world, pray in this song that the God of the universe would come and be near us.
Check out the next few lines. “And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear.” What are we asking for here? Centuries before Jesus, people of God were taken away from the Promised Land and became captive exiles in Babylon. They needed someone to rescue them. The same is true for us. We need someone to rescue us from our sin and brokenness. The prayer here is that God would not only come and be with us, but that he would set us free from those things that hold us captive today.
If you’ve ever felt like God is far away or if you’ve ever felt like you need someone to come and deliver you from a dark and lonely situation, this song is for you. This can be your prayer. Advent is for you! The good news in Advent is that even though we may have to wait, God does in fact come. He has come in his Son, Jesus, and because he has come, God is with you and has delivered you from all that holds you captive by his death and resurrection. And he is going to come again and make absolutely everything right.
Because Jesus has come and will come, you can (as the refrain of this song says), rejoice!
O Emmanuel, our king and Lord,
The anointed for the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God. Amen!
- Have you celebrated Advent before? If so, how have you celebrated? If not, how would you want to celebrate this year?
- What excites you about Jesus’ first coming 2,000 years ago and what do you look forward to about his second coming?