Advent Reflection: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Advent Reflection: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

by Claire Berger & Linc Ashby

Reflection

This coming Sunday we will sing, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." The simple song full of complex emotions matches, in a way, what can be an emotionally complex time of year. We rejoice with songs and gifts and twinkling lights and warm, peppermint beverages. And we also long for Christ to come again and make the broken whole; the longing made all the more acute with the expectations that come with the lights and the peppermint.

You can hear the longing in the last words of the prophet Micah and in the four hundred years of waiting that will bubble up into rejoicing:

"O come, o come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appears."

We will sing as Israel this Sunday, mourning for the brokenness in our spaces and longing for God to make them whole. And in the refrain, we will also rejoice. Singing pulls taut the tension between mourning and rejoicing.

Singing is all about tension—tension in your vocal cords and tension in your breath. Our instinct when we sing is to have our diaphragm locked in place and to barely breathe. Maybe the chaos of the season has you feeling that way.

But what makes a stronger, fuller sound when you sing is a deep inhale, a deep belly breath with your whole body. The deeper the inhale, the stronger or fuller the sound. Whatever tension is in your breathe, and in your life, know the Lord has come and is coming, for you.

May you inhale deeply this holiday season and with big belly breathes rejoice in our King. Join us with tension in our throats this Sunday, because that's what it means to sing.

 

Prayer

Father, you tell us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn, for to be human is to be emotionally complex. Nowhere do we experience this more powerfully than during the season of Advent when there's so much to treasure, yet longing for so much more. It was for the joy set before him that Jesus endured the cross, but this required him to be a man of sorrows, familiar with pain. How appropriate that this season is filled with singing for when we sing we experience you pulling taut the tension between joy and sorrow. And how ironic that the word for spirit is breath, which we need to sing! Holy Spirit, you are the holy breath that fills us, so that with tension in our throats we sing, "O come, O come, Emmanuel" and "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come."

 

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel Lyrics

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.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

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.