Monday, December 12, 2005

The Theology of Christmas Carols... IV

O come, O come, Em-man---u-el,
And ran-som cap-tive Is---ra-el,
That mourns in lone-ly ex-ile - here
Un-til the Son of God - ap--pear:
Re-joice! Re-joice! Em-man---u-el Shall come to thee, O Is---ra-el.

O come, O come, thou Rod of Jes-se, free
Thine own from Sa-tan's tyr--an--ny:
From depths of hell Thy peo-ple - save,
And give them vic-tor-y - o'er the grave:
Re-joice! Re-joice! Em-man---u-el Shall come to thee, O Is---ra-el.

O come, thou Day spring, come - and - cheer
Our spi-rits by thine ad--vent - here;
Dis-perse the gloom-y clouds of - night,
And death's dark sha-dows put - to - flight:
Re-joice! Re-joice! Em-man---u-el Shall come to thee, O Is---ra-el.

O come, Thou Key of Da---vid, come,
And o-pen wide our hea-ven-ly - home.
Make safe the way that leads on - high,
And close the path to mi--ser--y:
Re-joice! Re-joice! Em-man---u-el Shall come to thee, O Is---ra-el.

O come, O come, Thou Lord - of - Might,
Who to Thy tribes on Si--nai's - height In an-cient times did give
Thy - Law, In cloud and ma-jes-ty - and - awe:
Re-joice! Re-joice! Em-man---u-el Shall come to thee, O Is--ra--el.

Always, wherever there may be hope there is anticipation.

I often find myself dazing off, trying to imagine what it would have been like to live in a pre-messiah Israel. An Israel whose occupation is filled by those who either have given up on the hope of the Son of David or are yet in anticipation. I wonder what I would have been expecting. Would I have expected a mighty king to upset the Romans with flaming arrows and double edged swords? Would I have speculated about an existential savior who would never really come but still bring freedom to Israel? Would I have given up on my hopes of the Messiah and revolted against my adversaries in hopes of bringing about my liberation through my own efforts? I’m not sure what, specifically, my anticipation would have been about but I would have anticipated something, of this I’m sure. Israel was awaiting their savior who would come to liberate them from the power of evil; their oppressors.

Israel lived in a world where a gap… no, a canyon, was between the wealthy and the poor. The wealthy were very, very wealthy and the poor were very, very poor. Their people were oppressed with poverty and diseased. As much as we debate and speculate the meaning of salvation today, in the first century it meant salvation from their poverty and their oppression. The savior would have to be one who healed and freed and fed and ruled with dignity and honesty. Salvation was, to them a freedom from their oppression and to them this was tangible. Salvation was something real, so real you could point at it and say “freedom from this would be salvation.”

I sit and wonder what it would have been like to look eye to eye with my oppressor. What anticipation would they have felt? Like their oppression, their hope was tangible; it was real. What hope must they have had? What hope might some have lost?

“O come o come Emmanuel”

This hope, this anticipation speaks of something much bigger than efforts of a few zealots or existential coincidence. It is a hope greater than speculation can grasp.

“O come o come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel…”

Would I have hoped? Would I have trusted in the promise of salvation, of God coming to b with us?

Emmanuel, God with us, defined their salvation. if God were to dwell with Israel everything would change. The holy one, the one chosen by God to bring salvation would somehow bring God into dwelling with His people. Was He to bring God or be God?

“The anointed one, God’s chosen, is held in anticipated wonder, and as revelation unfolds, detail after detail about him builds, creating heart-gripping expectancy. This expectancy is captured in the cherished Christmas hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”[1]
-John frye


[1] John Frye, Jesus the Pastor (Grand Rapids Mi.: Zondervan Publishing 2000) 51.

3 comments:

Ashley said...

This is such a beautiful song. I think it is so important to remember amd think about thoes who lived during that time, a time when singing 'O come O come Emmanuel' was such a true heartfelt plea. Thank you Wes for helping us all remember!

Danny said...

To add on, as we live in this age of "post-messiah" we live in the age of rejoicing. We rejoice as the son of God has appeared and is bringing an end to oppression and God is bringing a hope to all nations.

WES ELLIS said...

good thoughts Danny.