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Footsteps to Follow: Rejoicing while we wait

One of my favorite Christmas carols is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I love the haunting melody and the descriptions in the carol of who Jesus is and what He has come to do.

Years ago, I researched the various images for Jesus that are used in the carol. From Emmanuel, which reminds us that God is with us and comes from the book of Isaiah, to the image of Jesus as the Dayspring, which is an archaic word that simply means the coming of the dawn, the carol is full of beautiful promises that are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Yet as I thought about the song this year, I was struck by how much we have found ourselves in a similar situation to the nation of Israel. In many ways, we “mourn in lonely darkness.”

We feel like exiles, lost and stumbling through a year that has overwhelmed us in many ways. We seem to lack the wisdom and understanding that we need to navigate our way through the darkness. Just like Israel in the hymn, the underlying cause of our condition is sin, which seems to entangle us at every turn.

Yes, if you take the time to explore the place we are, you will likely shudder as you probe the depths of the human condition. But that’s not what the carol suggests that we do. It’s not that we ignore the condition we are in, but rather than focus on what is wrong, the carol calls us to rejoice in the hope that our Savior is coming. If you pay close attention to the lyrics, the command to rejoice is not given because the Lord has already fulfilled all His promises, but because one day He will, so we can sing: “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you…”

As believers, we live at a time when many of the promises God made to His people have been fulfilled. We have reason to rejoice that Jesus has come and set us free from our sins and is always with us. But not everything is set right; there is still work to be done.

We look forward in anticipation to the second coming of Christ, when He will bring light into our darkness, wisdom to our hearts, and a culmination of all His good promises. Knowing that these blessings are coming and trusting the promise that “no word of God will ever fail,” we can heed the call of the carol and rejoice as we look forward to the second coming of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:37 NIV).

This season of advent, I encourage you to use the song “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” as a prayer. Take the time to recognize and mourn over the condition of this world and to repent of your sin, but do not wallow in sadness. Instead, thank God for the promises that are already fulfilled in Christ, and look forward in hope to those that are soon to be fulfilled.

While you wait for those promises, heed the command of the carol, and take time to rejoice and give thanks to God for His faithful love!

Rev. Robert Rice, pastor, Muncy Baptist Church

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