Emmanuel Has Come- a Devotion (4/4)
“O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel!”
Each Advent season, these words are sung in churches around the nation and likely, in some form, around the globe. They are words of hope and longing. They are words of expectation and yet to be fulfilled promise. They are words that capture, very well, the mood of the Israelite people at the time of the incarnation. There was longing and pain, yet there was hope.
I don’t know that we could fully grasp the frame of mind of the Israelites at the time of Jesus’s coming. They were a people who for centuries had sat under the rule of other nations. They had been oppressed for centuries and had endured the pain and sorrow resultant from their own sinful disregard for the Lord. And yet, while this likely weighed heavy on their hearts, still there was hope. God had been silent for a long time. Yet still there was hope.
We spend much of this season each year in a mode of hopeful anticipation, always waiting for what’s next. We wait for the parties. We wait for the gifts. Excitement builds as we look forward to opportunities for creating new memories with our families, memories we hope will be with us for a lifetime. And for some of us, we simply wait in hopeful anticipation for the season to be all over so we can get back to everyday life. Advent is a season driven by the anticipation of what’s next.
At the time of the birth of Jesus, hopeful anticipation was in the air as the people awaited the coming of the promised Messiah. Through centuries of silence they waited on an ancient promise of God that was yet to be fulfilled. But in a single moment, through a single birth, this hopeful anticipation turned into a divine reality. This birth is recorded in Luke chapter 2, both simply and directly. “She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7, ESV)
This, in so many ways, seems like a relatively ordinary beginning for something so extraordinary. A child is born. This is something that happens all over the world every day. Making it perhaps even more lackluster (at least on the surface) is the setting, a manger, because there was no room at the inn. But on this night, this ordinary woman in this humble place gave birth to the extraordinary. In that night, hope had come.
Hindsight can be both a blessing and a curse. It can be a blessing because it gives us the opportunity to look back on things and see them as they really were, giving us the complete picture that we may have missed in the moment. It can be a curse because gaining that complete picture may help us to better understand just how blind we were to have missed what was happening in the moment. There are many who we read about in the gospels who would have benefited from being able to look back on the significance of that night so they could more fully understand the events of that time. During this blessed child’s time on earth he was misunderstood, mocked, and challenged. He was beaten executed. There were many who simply had no idea what was right in front of their eyes. They simply had no idea that the subject of centuries of hopeful anticipation was standing right in front of them. Without the benefit of hindsight, they missed the divine truth before them . . . Emmanuel had come.
Because on that night, as illustrated in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, God the Son “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7, ESV) John’s gospel puts it this way: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, ESV) Hope had come. Emmanuel had come.
Now, here we are, approximately two millennia later. We’ve had two thousand years to process this unique period of history. We have records of this extraordinary time; inspired records giving us all that God would have us to know about that time when He was with us . . . visibly, audibly, with us. We live in a unique time. Because as we gaze back to His first advent, processing that short time in history where He appeared, “full of grace and truth,” we wait in hopeful anticipation ourselves as well.
You see, we can look back and revel in the fact that he took our sin and gave us His righteousness. We can look back and revel in the fact that He has taught us how to live out the Kingdom here on earth. Ultimately, we can look back and see that God’s promise had been fulfilled. But much like the Israelites, we await the fulfillment of a promise as well. We await the promise of His Second Coming, that great and glorious day when the Son of Man will “come on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30, ESV) Yes. Emmanuel has come. We celebrate that amazing moment in history during this Advent season. But we celebrate as we wait for yet another promise of God to be fulfilled. Emmanuel has come and He’s coming again. To God be the glory! Amen.