Can Hope, Peace & Tension Really Co-exist?

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel, verse 1

As I write this, it is October.  The prevailing car conversation with my oldest has been, “Can’t we just skip Halloween and Thanksgiving and skip right to Christmas?  I just feel like getting to the good of the season now.” 

The season is captivating, the lights, the special playlist of music that we break out for one month a year, the tree; it is a beautiful time.  But advent is a season of tension.  We celebrate because of the darkness that is overcome by Christ’s birth.  

The opening verse of this hymn does not reflect the joy and goodwill of the Christmas season.  It’s rife with imagery of captivity, mourning, exile, and longing.  The music is written in a minor key which adds to the weight, the melody is ominous and, even in its resolution, does not truly resolve.  In this haunting melody, there is a profound invitation to anticipate the coming of Jesus by being reminded of our need for him.

Israel is synonymous with the people who have chosen to be in covenant with God; for us, this is the Church.  While we have joy in deliverance in our salvation, we are still subject to the brokenness of the world around us.  We mourn the abuse that happens in homes, the injustice in our systems, and the evils that feel overwhelming.  The people of God see the contrast between God’s Kingdom and world.  It is easy to feel like we have been exiled. 

The beauty of advent is our anticipation of the coming savior.  While the music maintains its minor key, the refrain pulls us from the sadness with a major chord as we sing, “Rejoice! Rejoice!”  The appearance of Christ lifts us out of our captivity and into joy.

Accompanying Playlist

All hymns referenced throughout the series found in one spot. Some versions are traditional. Others…not so much. Enjoy!

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