Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Music of Advent - O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Week 3, Tuesday—Isaiah 7:10-15
O Come, O Come Emmanuel original Latin 9th century; other authors are Henry Sloan Coffin (st. 2), 1916 and Laurence Hull Stookey (st 4, 5, 6, and 7), 1986

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

Have you ever waited for something to happen and held out hope in spite of not seeing that hope realized?  I was not a very patient youth or young adult.  I would often get agitated if I felt things were not coming together in a timely fashion.  After agitation, then came worry, and then doubt, and then second-guessing myself.  If it continued, it could turn into a full-blown crisis and I may become completely confused over how I could have possibly missed it. There was one such occurrence when I was in my twenties.  I felt God leading in a direction that I thought I followed, but things didn’t seem to be going well.  Then they went from not well to worse.  Was I wrong?  Was I doing something wrong?  Maybe I understood it wrong?  Wait...what?

After having this type of situation happen a time or two in my life, I became more patient.  Okay, to be perfectly honest, I got older.  I simply didn’t have the energy to twist around like that anymore.  So patience often looked more like resignation. 

I cannot imagine a multi-generational holding pattern.  That is something to think about as we are in the middle of Advent and the waiting.  We can barely wait the four weeks of Advent to rush to Christmas.  And once we get to Christmas, often we do not take the appropriate twelve days to appreciate the gifts of the season.  We rush to take down the decorations and move on with our New Year’s plans.  Humans in general can be terrible at waiting.  If it came naturally, you wouldn’t see self-help gurus trying to teach patience.  But our waiting is nothing in comparison to the years of waiting the Israelites endured. 

However, as Christians, we also wait.  We wait for the return of the Christ.  This is a multi-generational hope that Christians have held onto through the centuries.  Only it varies from group to group.  There are the groups who make elaborate claims, take out billboards, speak on radio and television about the exact date that they have come up with based on this calendar or that sign.  We have seen at least three in the past 5 years.  Then there are those who have given up this hope and figure we understood wrong, and try to find other meaning in the passages of scripture foretelling return of the Lord.  Some of these theories may have some validity, but I  think in our effort to have a literal interpretation, we have forgotten to try to figure out the initial meaning in the first place, which is God came to live among us and in us.  The Kingdom of God is not a someday when we die location, it is a here and now place we live into as Christians. 

One time I heard a story about Martin Luther that has been my answer should anyone ask me about what I felt about the ‘second coming.’  Martin Luther, is the German monk who tried to reform the Catholic Church only to have to flee for his life.  He was asked if he felt Christ would return in his lifetime, to which he indicated he did feel the return would be during his time.  He was then asked what he would do if he knew Christ was returning tomorrow.  “Plant a tree today,” he replied.  Meaning, he would continue to live, making plans for the future. 

We do not know when Christ may return, or if the return will be during our lifetimes.  However, we have a job to do, and we cannot cut out early—we make disciples, we bring heaven to earth, we look for the good in the world, we speak truth, and above all else, we love one another.  We sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel with new understanding. 

O come, thou Wisdom from on high
and order all things far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
and cause us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Shall come to thee, O Israel 

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. 
Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, 
and shall name him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

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