Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Christmas is a time of anticipated gatherings. Families especially anticipate the homecomings of those who are far away geographically but never far from the heart.
Our oldest and youngest sons live away from home during the school year. Thankfully, their college is only about an hour’s drive from home, so if there was a burning desire to see them, my wife and I could.
But gas prices being what they are, and our schedules being what they are, we don’t really see them except at Thanksgiving time and Christmas time.
But that makes these two holidays all the more special. The weeks leading up to Christmas are filled with all kinds of anticipation. And high on the list is seeing our sons.
Christmas is a time of anticipated gatherings, perhaps because the first Christmas was one of the most anticipated events of all time. God was going to come to visit his people, and this was anticipated for thousands of years. Ever since the Fall into sin,recorded in Genesis 3, God’s people have been anticipating the coming of their salvation.
Instead of God anticipating our return to him, he came to be with us. We actually couldn’t make it home, because of our sin. We would be lost forever unless God came to be with us and redeem us – which he did through his Son, Jesus Christ.
While Christmas doesn’t officially start until the evening of Christmas Eve, the weeks leading up to Christmas – typically referred to as Advent – are filled with “Christmas”music at our house and in my office. And this helps build the joyful anticipation of the coming of Christmas.
There are some songs and carols that come and go from Christmas to Christmas, but there are others that are mainstays.
O Come O Come Emmanuel
One of the mainstays for me is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” It is, strictly speaking, an Advent hymn. The word “advent” means“coming.” And the first line of this hymn is “O Come….”
The “coming” looked for is the coming of Christ. But not really the first coming but rather the second coming of Christ!
The days leading up to Christmas are filled with anticipation. The anticipation of the joy of being with family, especially those we have not seen throughout the year. The anticipation of the festivals and feasts associated with Christmas also fill this season.
But for a Christian the supreme anticipation is that of Jesus Christ coming back to take all believers in him to heaven where, as one Sunday school student described it, “it is Christmas morning all the time!”
The Advent hymn “O Come,O Come, Emmanuel” is full of this anticipation. It does this by taking the language of Israel’s anticipation of the first coming of the Messiah and filling the hearts of Christians with the almost impatient waiting of the Second Coming.
This hymn is a re-working of the metrical paraphrases of the O Antiphons which are a series of plainchant antiphons that are part of the Magnificat in the liturgy of Vespers in the final days of Advent leading up to Christmas. Each of these antiphons use one of the messianic names for Jesus found in the Old Testament.
Arranged in a specific way, in the Latin, the words can form the acrostic ERO CRAS (Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia).This is the Latin phrase “Tomorrow, I will be [there].” While the Messiah was anticipated for many tomorrows in the Old Testament, there was eventually the last tomorrow that we call “Christmas Eve.”
So much of what we know and believe about Jesus Christ comes to us by the Old Testament or in Old Testament word pictures.
Jesus the Messiah (the“Christ”) came the first time to ransom us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. He did this by taking our sins and dying on the cross to pay the penalty for them. In their place, Jesus gives us his righteousness.
And in that righteousness we are now the new “Israel” and await our final ransom and freedom from the exile of sin and death in this world.
Jesus is Emmanuel
Jesus, the descendant of Jesse – the father of King David – gave us the ultimate victory over death and the grave. The gloomy clouds of the night of death will be dispersed by the glorious light of the “Dayspring” on high!
Jesus opened to us heaven. We had been locked out of heaven because of our sins.
Our sins separated us from God because he is holy and sin cannot be where holiness resides. With the forgiveness won by Jesus, the “Son of David,” now ours, he unlocks heaven for us.
We know we are sinners because the Law of God – the Ten Commandments – shows us our sins as a mirror bright. The Law was given as tablets of stone by Moses from Mt. Sinai and accompanied by thunder and lightning.
Jesus is not a new Moses,giving us a new set of laws to keep. Jesus is the Lord himself! Lord, in the language of the Old Testament, is Adonai. And instead of thunder and lightning, we have Jesus’ Gospel in the earthquake and darkness of Good Friday.
With Jesus’ death on the cross, the Law of God was fulfilled completely and all our sins – our transgressions of God’s Law – were forgiven.
As we await the coming of Christmas, we live in the anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ who will gather us all home to heaven. Each Christmas Eve and Christmas morning is a little glimpse into the glory, love and peace that awaits us in heaven!
Lord Jesus Christ, be with us as we anticipate our Christmas celebrations and the homecomings they will bring. Help us to be ever watchful of your Second Coming to take us home to heaven. In your name we pray. Amen.
© 2018 True Men Ministries