Can you count how many times you have sung the popular Christmas hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"? I can’t, but what is sad is that I often sing the words without meditating on them. It wasn’t until this year that the correlation of Christ’s name and singing these words weighed on my heart. My favorite is the last stanza, which says,
Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind; Oh, bid our sad divisions cease, And be yourself our King of Peace. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel!
Emmanuel means God with us, so the words we sing don’t just offer a Christmas warmth and ring, but a true declaration that Christ’s coming will fulfill the redemption of the world. Yes, Jesus came to the earth and was born as a baby. That’s what our Christian culture often celebrates during Christmas, but I want to sing something more this year. Something that speaks to the mission we have because of his presence.
God with us.
He is with us already, he is with us still, and he is with us forever. I want to focus on the word “us,” which refers to the collective body of believers who rejoice together in this forever presence. In my favorite compilation of letters from Bonhoeffer, he explains this concept beautifully, “With God there is joy, and from him it comes down and seizes spirit, soul, and body. And where this joy has seized a person, it reaches out around itself, it pulls others along, it bursts through closed doors.”
There is much to be celebrated during Christmas, but there is also something that we seem to miss. We do well to celebrate Christ in the manger—a humble servant coming to earth to bring light and joy. This Christmas cheer is the classic rejoicing during this time of year. We sing Christmas music, we share laughter with family, and we even shout out that “Jesus is the reason for the season!” However, a deep pain and suffering falls silent to the masses during the holidays. We take in so much that the silence of the world falls away. I only hear the ringing bell from the Salvation Army on my brief walk into the mall and even that delivers a pleasant sound to my ears. The suffering, lonely, and lost hear a different kind of ringing that’s typically not hope, rejoicing, or a bell. It’s an enclosing silence.
The silence isn’t filled by watching a crowded world celebrate a commercialized holiday. The celebration of hope and joy don’t make sense to those without, it only reminds them of their lacking.We need help remembering beyond this, that Christ came to restore a song to the suffering and silent. He came to embody the promise of an eternal and everlasting hope to mankind as a whole.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel!
See, we often don’t celebrate the greatest gift we have in his presence. The gift of harmony.
Emmanuel is more than a Christmas carol. It’s a song that sings of a name that has the power to gather the nations. And a name that declares the presence of God and the true need for Christ. As individual chords, we don’t produce the most pleasant sound. That’s because we represent only a single chord progression, but harmony is the sound of peace and unity. We can’t produce this without each other.
Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind; Oh, bid our sad divisions cease, And be yourself our King of Peace.
This message is not new to your ears. I’m sure you will hear it many times. Our mission more than just feeling convicted and volunteering somewhere once. Instead, ask yourself: How does God with me transform my everyday life and those around me?
Read Luke 1. This story counsels us in three ways. First, the angel Gabriel appeared to Elizabeth before Mary, the mother of Jesus. Second, Mary was afraid, but she listened to the angel’s words from God and accepted them at face value. Third, Mary sung a song of praise. Again, what does this story look like translated into your life?
1. Who is your person of peace?
This person would be much like Elizabeth was for Mary, they can exhort and counsel you with their faith. Seek out a person who is in a different denomination or from a different ethnic culture but that lives in peace and models community well.
2. Define what you fear about facing your mission.
When you are well acquainted with your barriers, share them with God and ask for guidance. Remember his name, Emmanuel—he is with you as you go (Matt. 28:18-20).
3. How can you share your story of Emmanuel as God with us in your community?
Read Mary’s song again and study the story that is told. She shares of the counsel, guidance, and faithfulness of God. She said yes to God, and because of this obedience, we have Emmanuel. Use this as encouragement to share your own story with people who have not yet experienced the peace and presence of God. Doing so will cultivate and make great the name of Emmanuel in your community.
“Because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” - Luke 1:78-79
May we be a Church that does more than sing Christmas carols on Sunday. May we be a Church that invites and disciples others to sing of the same Savior. Different chords, but one song, a song that only sounds pleasing when sung together. This song declares our collective need for a Savior. It has the power to bid our sad divisions cease. Together, his church sings and begs for his return. We beckon him King of Peace!
1. Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, and Jana Riess. God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2010. Print.
Chelsea Vaughn (@chelsea725) has served a ministry she helped start in the DFW Metroplex since she graduated from college. She received her undergraduate degree at Dallas Baptist University in Communication Theory. She does freelance writing, editing, and speaking for various organizations and non-profits. She hopes to spend her life using her gift for communication to reach culture and communities with the love of Jesus.
Editor: In advent, there’s a natural sense of restlessness in our world which only Jesus’ presence can bring peace and resolution to. Our desire is to drive our hope toward the incarnate Savior during this season. Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth.