Introduction to the “God With Us” Series
Emmanuel. It means “God with us.” If ever there was a time to pray for God to be with us, it’s now.
In this series, we let Advent and Christmas hymns lead us in that prayer. Since December is short and we need God with us now, we’re starting early. Besides, there are so many hymns and so little time! Some of the featured hymns will be familiar, and some deserve to be more familiar. But all of them offer unique insights into the miracle of the incarnation.
May these reflections help you feel God’s saving presence in your life and in the life of the world right now.
Come, O Come, Emmanuel!
Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Read: Exodus 3:1-11
Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians…. (Exodus 3:7-8a, NRSV).
In the past, I have been the first to complain when Christmas decorations come up before Halloween. I don’t even like singing Christmas carols during Advent.
But this year feels different. I don’t know about you, but I’m not waiting one minute more to sing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
In Hebrew, the name, “Emmanuel” means “God with us.” And that is precisely what we are all praying for these days. While the incarnation is the best example of God’s being “with us,” the impulse to come down and save has been the habit of God’s heart since well before that.
In the story of the burning bush, for instance, God speaks to Moses and says, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their suffering, and I have come down to deliver them….” (Ex. 3:7-8a). “I have come down…” In other words, I will be “God with us” for you. Emmanuel.
Those are comforting words for a world that is being oppressed by a virus. But the story from Exodus 3 also nudges us to consider where we stand in the Exodus story. Should we identify with the Hebrews slaves or the Egyptian taskmasters? Yes, with regard to the virus we are “oppressees.” But are we also the “oppressors?” Recent evidence of systemic racism would suggest that if that role fits, we ought to own up to it. Many of us have much work to do in that regard. But whether we are the oppressed or the oppressors—or some complicated combination of both, our prayer can be the same: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
So, let that be our prayer—even if it means getting a head start on Advent.
Ponder: In what ways are you oppressed? In what ways are you the oppressor?
Listen: O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Come, oh come, Emmanuel!
From depths of hell your people save, and give them victory o’er the grave.
Bid all our sad divisions cease, and be thyself our Prince of Peace.
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Come, O come, Emmanuel!