The Songs of Christmas: Day 14
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O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
I’m not one to choose a “favorite” anything. I don’t like to limit myself, and I am indecisive at best. As soon as I tell you that my favorite movie is Little Women, I’ll remember how much I love My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The second I say chocolate cake is my favorite dessert, I’ll be thinking about my mom’s amazing banana pudding. And I’ll end up feeling like I’ve misrepresented myself and now you don’t even know me at all and maybe I don’t even know myself. It’s a slippery slope, I tell ya. Never ask a textbook over-thinker what her favorites are. You – and she – will be sorry you did.
But when Sarabeth sent that email asking me to write about my favorite Christmas song, I didn’t even have to think about it. For all my indecisiveness, I actually do have a very few favorites. My favorite human being is my daughter, my favorite color is purple, my favorite holiday is Christmas, and my favorite Christmas song is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
Since I didn’t have to spend any time considering which song was my favorite, I’ve used that time instead to ponder why this song is my favorite. Why do I love it so much? Why does it stand so definitively unrivaled as my favorite song during my favorite holiday? Wouldn’t you think an over-thinking girl with a music degree would have at least 20 favorite songs to go along with her favorite holiday?
Yeah, you would think. But try as I may, I couldn’t call to mind one single song that even comes close to holding a candle to this one.
For starters, I love the melody – the way the mournful, minor-key verse bursts into a joyous refrain, only to settle back into the same somber melodic arc from before. I love the language and the beauty of the poetry in the lyrics. I love the expression of expectancy and need, the pleading for His nearness, the imagining of all the things He would put right when He appeared.
But mostly, I love this one word: Emmanuel.
It means God with us, God among us, God in the midst of us. The verses beg Emmanuel to come near. The refrain promises that He will and bids us rejoice in advance of His arrival. And oh, how we need Him near. How we need Him among us, with us, in the midst of us.
We are a blessed people, to live on this side of the story, to know that Emmanuel did indeed arrive just as the Father promised He would. Not only that, as believers we have His very Spirit abiding within us and daily fulfilling the promise in His name. So why do we continue to sing and identify with this song of longing for Jesus’ arrival?
Simple. Because He promised to come back for us.
This is where our place in history finds us waiting, not for the Christ-child to be born, but for the Messiah’s promised return. For the day when death’s dark shadows are eternally put to flight as Daniel’s prophecy rings true and we see “one like the Son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.”
And so our pensive refrain sounds on as we wait and watch the sky with the promise and the plea of Revelation 22:20 burning in our hearts:
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Today’s story is by Andrea Alford, and we’ve linked to a favorite version of her Christmas song below.
Andrea Alford and her daughter have been at Fellowship North for seven years this Christmas. In fact, her first Christmas here (2008), Donna asked her to play piano for the Christmas Eve service. It was her first time to play piano for FN, and she thought it was maybe a little nuts to ask the new girl to play such an important service. Being a little nuts herself, she knew she’d like it here. Playing on that Christmas Eve and several others thereafter stand among her most treasured memories of the past seven years. You can find her online at www.unsearchablethings.com.