"O Come Emmanuel" was not always one of my favorite Christmas carols. Sadly, I lumped it in with other Christmas "faves" such as "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "Wish You a Merry Christmas." Yet, many years ago while reading the Apostle Matthew's narrative of Jesus' birth, I found myself profoundly impacted by Emmanuel. The captivating story of the advent of Jesus Christ year after year continually astonishes me. I no longer believe worshipful Christmas carols such as "O Come Emmanuel" stand parallel with holiday songs about Santa, a red-nosed reindeer or a snowman.
To a follower of Christ, Christmas isn't about Santa Claus. In fact, I would argue it isn't even about gift giving and receiving, but about Emmanuel - the Creator wanting to be with his created ... the greatest love story ever told. John 1:14 tells us that "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." Eugene Peterson's The Message brings this verse even closer to home - "The Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood." The holy and living God came to earth to live among us. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that God was in the flesh like you and I. Grasping this truth is difficult at best. A virgin that conceived God in the flesh is incomprehensible. And for this I am thankful. God wouldn't be God if we could wrap our minds around him and his miracles.
The biblical Christmas story is about love, faith, miracles and fulfillment of prophecy. Ultimately it's about Emmanuel. The incarnate Jesus Christ was God's flawless plan to redeem and resolve the sin problem that has plagued our world and our lives. The incarnate Jesus Christ was the manifestation of God's amazing love for us. I never truly grasped the incarnation, Emmanuel - "God with us" until I went on Young Life staff 11 years ago.
Young Life's mission is to introduce Jesus Christ to adolescents - unchurched and disinterested teenagers. Young Life leaders go where kids are and "meet them on their turf" in order to win a hearing or "earn the right to be heard." These leaders leave their own comforts as adults or college students to enter and encounter a culture that is broken and in despair. Certainly these comforts are pale in comparison to the king of kings leaving the comforts of glory to enter and encounter a world that is broken and in despair. However, God's desire to be with us demonstrated via the advent of Jesus Christ is the very method Young Life hangs its hat on - going to the world of kids to be with them, to love them with our lives and to introduce them to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.
The birth of Jesus Christ was the first chapter in the greatest love story ever told that reaches its climax on a weekend we call Easter, but will not conclude until the Second Advent, Christ Jesus' return. So when you sing "O Come Emmanuel" this weekend, remember you are not only singing in celebration of our Saviour's birth but also in anticipation of his return. You are singing about God's tremendous love for us that he came to be with us and one day soon he will come back for us so we can be with him for eternity. And that's something to sing about.
(The opinions of this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Inter-Mountain, the Randolph County Ministerial Association or the author's church affiliation.)