Subject: Christmas Carol #4 and Jesus Christ: “O Come O Come Emmanuel” (#Emma&Jordanlive)
Matthew 1:22-23 “This took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name ‘Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14)’”
In American culture, we celebrate Christmas as a day on the calendar. But it’s actually a 12-day celebration that begins December 25th with the birth of the Jesus Christ and ends January 6th with the Incarnation, when God became a man. In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, written 2,700 years ago, God promised in Isaiah 7:14 that He would one day send His Son to us. In our verse this week, the New Testament book of Matthew confirms that God’s ancient promise was fulfilled when Jesus Christ, our ‘Emmanuel’, was born.
To end our 2016 celebration, we’ll look at another cherished Christmas carol that is centered on this truth of Incarnation – “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. It is different than the upbeat carols ‘Joy to the World’ and ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’. This one is written for the real world, where we as Christians can rejoice in our redemption in Jesus Christ but long for the day when this world’s sorrows and suffering will end.
Pastor John Piper explained this carol’s deep theology in a December 2015 ‘Desiring God’ article: “This hymn doubles as a prayer for the 1st and 2nd coming of Christ. It takes us into the mind of old Israel, longing for the first coming of the Messiah. And it goes beyond that longing by voicing the yearning of the Church for the Messiah, Jesus Christ, to consummate the history of redemption.
When Emmanuel arrived — when the Dayspring rose — we learned that redemption had only begun. The final blood was shed. The debt was paid. Forgiveness was purchased. God’s wrath was removed. Adoption was secured. The future is sure. The joy is great. But the end is not yet.
Death still snatches away. Disease still makes us miserable. Calamity still strikes. Satan still prowls. Flesh still wars against the Spirit. Sin still indwells. We still ‘wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies’ (Romans 8:23). We still ‘wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1Corinthians 1:7). We still ‘wait for the hope of righteousness’ (Galatians 5:5). Our longing continues.
The Christian life oscillates between these two poles: the overflowing joy of the ‘already’ redeemed (Ephesians 1:7) and the tearful yearning of the ‘not-yet’ redeemed (Ephesians 4:30), We are ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ (2Corinthians 6:10). It is a wonderful thing that there are Christmas carols that are written for the real world of sorrowful joy… ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’ is one of them.”
My main ministry is with teenagers. At my church, two of our beloved teenage girls recently left us for heaven: Emma Aronson in June 2015 and Jordan Swearngin in September 2015. Both families live daily with this carol’s message of “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”. There is joy in knowing their daughters’ redemption has been secured through their faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but life in this fallen, death-ridden world continues until He returns to forever rid it of pain and sorrow. This is the reality of living in a world we have messed up. But it is also living in the reality of the Incarnation, where Emmanuel defeated death and will one day reunite all the Emmas and Jordans with their loved ones.
In his 2011 article “Tiny Mouth, Tiny Feet”, Pastor Max Lucado helps us further see that the Incarnation ensures our prayers today are worthwhile: “At this point in history, the human being who best understands who God is and what He is doing is a teenage girl in a smelly stable. She can’t take her eyes off Him. Mary knows she is holding God. She remembers the words of the angel: ‘His kingdom will never end’.
God enters the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager… And she prays ’Sleep deeply, tiny eyes. Sleep while you can. For soon the blurriness will clear and you will see the mess we have made of your world. You will see our nakedness, for we cannot hide. You will see our selfishness, for we cannot give. You will see our pain, for we cannot heal. O eyes that will see hell’s darkest pit and witness her ugly prince . . . sleep while you can. Lay still, tiny mouth. Lay still mouth from which eternity will speak. Tiny tongue that will soon summon the dead, that will define grace, that will silence our foolishness.”
Imagine Emma and Jordan right now, talking with Mary. Three teenage girls who all knew this Emmanuel while they walked the Earth, and who all now know and see Him now in a pain-free heaven! The message of ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ is captured in this truth: if you have trusted Christ with your life, you know Him because He has saved you from your sins. And when you die, you will know and see Him – forever.