This morning I took my coffee into the living room and sat down at my electronic piano keyboard. I browsed through a book of Christmas hymns arranged by The Piano Guys, and began to play an old favorite, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Its haunting melody fits the pre-Christmas mood… the time of preparation for the celebration to come. But it was the words of the second line that gave me pause:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel.
Why is Israel “captive”? What does she need to be ransomed from?
The lyrics continue:
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel.
Mankind was in mourning, in exile, until God sent His Son to us. And we still experience a degree of that mourning until we are united with Him again in Heaven.
The next verse talks about freeing us from Satan’s tyranny and giving us victory over the grave—the ultimate goal of Christ’s incarnation. And then there’s the verse that lifts our spirits when we are suffering temporal struggles:
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
I know five people who have lost loved ones in the past few weeks. Two of the deceased were elderly—in their 80s and 90s—and had lived full lives. But the pain was still heavy on those who loved them. But three were young people in their twenties, overcome by emotional and mental struggles that led at least two of them to take their own lives. As I listened to our pastor’s words yesterday, acknowledging what a difficult time it was for those who were grieving, I heard him talk about trust. That in the face of our sorrow, God still asks us to trust Him. To believe that He loves us.
The music helps. You can listen to a beautiful arrangement by The Piano Guys, with piano and cello here.
I love Anya’s voice. So clear and hopeful.
And this is a beautiful traditional choir version.
I’ll share reflections on another Christmas hymn soon. Stay tuned, and thanks always for reading.