First Sunday of Advent - Hope
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel Chalice Hymnal 119
Of the many beautiful hymns that have been written in celebration of the birth of Christ, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is my favorite. The hymn is based on a prophecy in Isaiah 7, a prophecy that looks forward to the birth of a child who will be named Immanuel, which means “God with us.” In Eden, God had been present with mankind, but because of the Fall, man was exiled from God’s presence. From that point forward, the restoration of God’s presence with man become a major theme that is developed throughout Scripture.
God chooses Israel as the people through whom He would reestablish His presence with man, and this begins with the construction of the tabernacle in the wilderness and later the temple in Jerusalem. God dwells amid His holy people, but only the high priest is allowed into God’s direct presence and that only once a year. At the time of the exile, Ezekiel sees God’s presence depart from the temple as a result of the people’s sin, but he and the other prophets look forward to a time when God will restore His presence with His people in a way that goes beyond the temple built with human hands.
In the fullness of time, Jesus is born, and Matthew tells us that His birth took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet Isaiah. Jesus is Immanuel. He is God with us.
The words of the hymn express the hopes of Israel throughout history for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise. We as Christians can now look back to the fulfillment of those promises – to the most incredible, awe-inspiring moment in history, the birth of Immanuel, the incarnation of the Son of God Himself. In Jesus, God established His presence once again with His people, and He is with us always – to the end of the age!
Grace and peace,
Rev. Russell VanHoose