O Come Emmanuel


“O come, O come, Emmanuel 
And ransom captive Israel 
That mourns in lonely exile here 
Until the Son of God appear 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Shall come to thee, O Israel.” 

I sang this a few weeks ago at church with my Israeli scarf catching the tears that trickled down my face as I remembered celebrating Christmas there a few years ago. The country felt shockingly normal for having such a sacred history, and yet you can sense, like Jesus said, that the very rocks would cry out in praise of His glory. 

And so my heart breaks. Not only for those who are at war, but for the lack of resolve in this conflict. At its root, my sadness is not over politics, but souls. In Isaiah 9, the world is described as a people living in darkness. That darkness feels especially heavy this year. Like the song says, we are living in exile, in a world of suffering and evil that is far from what God intended it to be. 

But praise the Lord that Isaiah 9 continues. 

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned... Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this (NIV)."

This Christmas, we are celebrating how Jesus is the God who left heaven to come down to a manger, and eventually a cross. He is Emmanuel – God with us. We worship the kind of King who let the darkness overwhelm Him, letting His body be broken so that we can share in His resurrection life. His kingdom is not one of power and violence, but of sacrifice and gentleness.  

Because of this hope, my prayer is not just that the pain in the world would end, as I know it will when King Jesus returns, but that the world would see God’s goodness in the here and now. That each of us, His kingdom on earth, would be a foreshadowing of how good His reign over all the earth will be. May we not fear the darkness but be people who reach into it and bring peace and love to those who need a great light. 

The song ends by saying, 

“O come, desire of nations, bind 
In one the hearts of all mankind 
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease 
And be Thyself our King of peace 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Shall come to thee, O Israel.” 

Our King of Peace is coming and is already reigning now, in us. 

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