The Second Lesson: Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
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.
|O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is one of the first carols we sing in the Advent season. Its mood and tone are not the light and cheerful melodies usually associated with the season. There are no shepherds nor angels nor donkeys. The setting is not Bethlehem and the season is decidedly “not yet”. But we come to it again and again not only in our churches but in the culture at large – even Kelly Clarkson sings it through our stereo speakers. |
So what is it about this tune that has called us and generations of expectant disciples into the Advent season for over 300 years? I think it is that our spirits understand and know waiting. There is a resonance and profound truth in the “not yet” even as we long for the “right now”.
Twentieth century theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-45) wrote about this tension from the Flossenbürg concentration camp in Nazi Germany, “Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot…. for the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait.” This carol prepares our hearts to receive the truth of Emmanuel, God with us, which is indeed the greatest, most profound, tenderest thing in this world and in the next.
And so we sing along this year, perhaps with Ms. Clarkson in our kitchens or with our families around our homemade Advent wreaths. We sing, and we wait in a “not yet” that is overflowing with the hope of what will be by God’s infinite love.