Emmanuel: God with us. There was a period of time for me when that idea or phrase was painful-- when I had heard the promise that God would always be with us, and I just couldn't feel or believe it. I don't pretend to understand the brokenness in our world or lives, or even have answers to making it right-- the issues are all so complex. But one thing I walked away with, during that dark time, is a deep belief that one day it will all be made right. It is rooted down into my bones, even deeper, and I have known people who have had everything taken from them, who celebrate the reality of that future wholeness, restoration and Presence that we are all aching for now.
The Advent devotional I read this morning said that in medieval Europe, worship services leading up to Christmas included seven invitations for God to come: Come, O Wisdom; Come, O Lord; Come, O Branch of Jesse; Come O Key of David; Come O Dayspring; Come, O King of Nations; and Come O Emmanuel-- all were ancient titles used for the coming Savior, pleas for God to come. One of my favorite Christmas songs, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, is a compilation of those seven pleas:
O come, O come, Emmanuel!
Redeem they captive Israel
That unto exile drear has gone
Far from the face of God's dear Son.
O come, thou branch of Jesse! Draw
The quarry from the lion's claw;
From the dread caverns of the grave,
From nether hell, they people save.
O come, O come, thou Dayspring bright!
Pour on our souls thy healing light;
Dispel the night's ling'ring gloom,
And pierce the shadows of the tomb.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
How appropriate those words seem. In the face of brokenness, we can call, we can plea, we can invite, and we can even celebrate the coming-- someday, the coming-- of a Healer who will be with us.