Tuesday, December 23, 2014

O Come, O Come: Christmas Reflections

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “O Come O Come Emmanuel”. Something about the minor key has always stuck with me—it was almost haunting, a lilting and wistful tune. This choice of key always seemed odd to me, especially considering that it was a song of anticipation with a chorus that rang out “Rejoice!” multiple times.

Last Sunday, as I was in church, we sang that song again. Most notably, it was followed with communion, and “O Come O Come Emmanuel” echoed over the speakers with a soft violin and quiet, stirring bells that sounded like they were being tapped out on a piano.

And as I reflected on communion and listened to the beautiful violin, I began to understand why “Emmanuel” had a minor tune. A quiet, almost melancholy ache rose up in my heart; and as the pastor solemnly urged us to “eat of this bread and drink of this cup” in remembrance of the Lord's death until he comes, I longed to see the day when the Lord would come back again.

That old Christmas carol is in a minor key, perhaps, because waiting is hard. Waiting is sad, and makes your heart ache. And as the world continues hurtling onward, consumed with strife and grief and bigotry, we long for something greater.

The Jews remembered the promises of God, that a God With Us would come someday and “ransom captive Israel”. But remembrance and hope are both hard things. One is looking back, and one is looking forward, and neither one is easy in the present. We want things now. We either want to be back in the past with Christ or forward to the Second Coming. But taking communion and remembering that God is not physically with us—yet—is a thing worthy of a minor melody.

So even as we celebrate the first coming of Christ this Christmas, let's keep our eyes ahead to the Second Coming. The revolution started two thousand years ago, and the echoes of that explosive God-man point forward to the day that he will come again in glory. He will wipe away our tears and make us wholly in his likeness; Christ will be Emmanuel again. God With Us.

And I hope and pray that we never get so comfortable with our presents and comfort foods that we forget the wistful hope that God has placed in our hearts. I hope that even as we celebrate Christmas, we will feel that aching longing for a day when there will be no more pain, and glory forever.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

(P.S. Also, please listen to all of Rend Collective's “Campfire Christmas” album. Most notably, my favorite of the disc, “For All That You Have Done”. You're welcome!)


Blue said...

That song is powerful, I wish they played it more often.

There are a lot of people I know who are captive, all I want for Christmas is to see them rejoice.

Kayla said...

I love O Come, O Come Emmanuel. I love the minor key of it and how haunting it sounds. My favorite versions of it are the ones that sound like they belong in a post apocalyptic movie soundtrack. I've searched around for the best "creepy" version of the song and so far Francesca Battistelli's, Enya's, and The Civil Wars' versions of it are some of my favorites. Seriously spooky and awesome. Also, there are some really cool versions of the song in Latin.

Keturah Lamb said...

We were just discussing this song the other day! Wondering why it had been written in the minor key. It definitely is a beautiful song :)