Advent Devotional

December 3: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

The second track on our new Advent/Christmas album is a medley of two traditional Advent hymns, and we are going to be reflecting on each of them individually. We start with “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” …

Long-Awaited / You Arrived by Providence

O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lowly exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel, shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou rod of Jesse, free
Thy children from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel, shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel, shall come to thee, O Israel
-Lyrics: Antiphons; Arrangement: Jordan Hurst

Scripture Reading

ISAIAH 11:1-10

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

Devotional: Alex Moser

Each year, I come bearing baggage to Advent: the memory of a loved one that has died; a friendship that has grown cold; dreams that failed to materialize. This year is no exception. From escalating socio-political conflict to loved ones being lost or isolated due to an unseen virus, no one needs to think long to see we all carry baggage into this Advent season.

What do you do with these things? My tendency is to bury them. Stuff them even further down. And of course, the American Christmas season offers plenty of ways to do so. The advent of consumerism begins on Black Friday, as does the sentimentality of annual Christmas movie-watching. The internal and external tension and conflict is too much work for me to process, so I plunge into the distractions.

Yet, each year this carol jolts me, if for only a moment, out of my self-medicated coping mechanisms. Each verse, in it’s minor melancholy, calls upon God to meet his people amidst her exilic, death-stricken, quarreling state. There is no mincing of words either. It’s clear that God’s people are in dire need of deliverance. But then, each final line of the verse turns from the present state of brokenness to God’s promises – God’s appearance, victory, and reign. These final verse lines propel the song into the chorus of praise: “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” In response to the people’s call of action to God, the chorus says that praise is due, for Emmanuel will come to be with his people.

In Matthew’s gospel account, the birth of Jesus is connected with Isaiah’s prophecy of a virgin giving birth to a son named “Immanuel,” meaning “God with us.” For both Isaiah and Matthew, life was desolate for the people of God. Israel was in exile from the promised land, under the thumb of oppressive empires, and constantly in internal strife within themselves about how to get out of their mess. This name, then, comes as a promise from God to his people, that even in their desolation and despair, God is with them.

And so now, experiencing isolation and fear and division, we gather as a church to sing this song about Emmanuel being with us. This promise is not empty. It does not offer mere sentimentality or distraction from reality. Rather, it bears real and radical change in our world. Where there was once loneliness, there is now communion with God. Where there was once death, there is now abundant life. Where there was once strife and destructive division, there is now peace.

As we make our way into this Advent season, with all our individual and corporal baggage, “O Come O Come Emmanuel” gives voice to our ills, and also points to a God who is with us to transform our baggage into his new creation.

Coloring Sheet: Michelle Boyd

Members in our church have created coloring pages, which are designed for all ages and artistic ability, as a way to help you further engage with the lyrics and music. We invite you to slow down and meditate on the beauty and depth of this Advent season.

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[ Previous Devotionals ]

Dec. 1