This ancient hymn has, for some time, been my favorite song. The haunting melody bears the familiar pain of the exile, and yet this song about deep desire and current pain is filled with hope. Not just any hope, but hope of deliverance. It is the hope for the return of God.
Emmanuel had been here before. Adam and Eve walked with Him in the cool of the day. But those days are long forgotten. The years of rebellion had pushed them so far away that all they had left was an ache to be remembered. O come, O come Emmanuel! Can you identify with this song? Christ came and brought about our redemption. He walked with us in the cool of the day. But years of rebellion have pushed our world to the edge of evil. Listen to the echoes of wars and conflict. Those wars happen between countries, but they also happen between family members, they happen between friends. A thousand shattered relationships make us cry out, “O come! O come, Emmanuel!”
We are exiled, caught between the already and the not-yet. We already have our redemption from our sins, but with creation we groan for the redemption that is to come. We already have seen Christ come in victory on the cross, but we long for His victory in the skies. We already have seen God implement His Kingdom on earth in Christ through the Church, but we long for His rule and reign to be seen and acknowledged by all. O come, o come, Emmanuel.
Homework this week comes in three parts. Pray for the Peace of Israel. Pray for the return of Christ! And “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”
O Love divine, what has thou done!
The immortal God hath died for me!
The Father’s coeternal Son
bore all my sins upon the tree.
Th’ immortal God for me hath died:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified! – Charles Wesley
We live in a culture that is obsessed with happiness and general good vibes. We have a great set-up! Generally movies, television, radio, fast food, etc. cater to our desire for a happy life. But if they don’t, and someone slips through the cracks, we have Prozac!
The Christian life, however, asks something very different of us. It asks us to remember the cross. It asks us to consider the crucified Christ. So for the 40 days of Lent, we abstain from something close to us so that we may become closer to him. Lent is a time of somber remembrance; both of the heaviness of our sins, and the weight of God’s “search and rescue” mission. It seems odd that we would voluntarily subject ourselves to this “downer.” But the truth of the matter is, it is through this introspection that we are able to feel the full joy of Easter. Without the lowlands, how could we know the mountain?
This week we experience the final days of Lent, but even more, we have the opportunity to remember and experience the climax of God’s salvation story. If we allow it to, this week will take us from the depths of sorrow to the heights of joy. This week we are offering you a ticket to the most incredible drama that history has ever seen. As a church we have several services to remember the final week of Jesus’ life.
I know that our schedules are overbooked, but I encourage you to make some space for this story to unfold in your life. Come and join us in the Holy Week services Palm Sunday morning and evening, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, and experience the depth of God’s Salvation story.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:5-6
Allow me to paraphrase. “But he was impaled because of our sin; he was crushed because of our propensity to sin; he was punished in our place, and because of his punishment, we are given peace; and we are emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally healed by his wounds. Every one of us decided to follow our own crookedness, and God placed on him the crookedness of us all.”
Christ beckons us with his crucifixion, to receive healing and forgiveness from God. It is time to freely acknowledge our weakness before the Almighty who put on weakness for us; it is time to place our fears, worries, aches, pains, sins, emotional wounds, and diseases into the hands of the one whose hands were pierced for us. We come longing for his presence, and receiving his forgiveness.
The beating and crucifixion of Jesus accomplished much more than just our forgiveness; it also secured our healing. Where forgiveness is concerned with our past, healing is concerned with our present and our future.
My prayer for you. is that you would uncover the hidden places where the fears, pains, etc., have been hiding, and expose them to Jesus the Merciful, to the gentle healer himself.
Don’t forget! It seems this theme is repeated to the children of God over and over throughout scripture. It could be because we forget so easily. Like a ribbon on our spiritual fingers, the church seasons help us remember. Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, etc. – These are seasons set up to help us remember and integrate what God has done in history with what God does for us now. So this year, let’s use our time wisely as we prepare ourselves for the coming season.
Around Thanksgiving, my favorite comic strip is “Foxtrot.” If you have ever seen the strip, the author dedicates almost two weeks showing how the family gets ready. The father and son eat as much as possible to “stretch their stomachs” because they know that Thanksgiving is coming, and they must be ready. They refuse to treat it like any other meal. It requires “training!” We are coming up to a Christian season of thanksgiving. Just like the Thanksgiving meal is far superior to a normal dinner, so the “meals” we get during Passion week and Easter carry much more meat for us than normal weeks.
So let us prepare for these “meals” together during Lent. Let us come together and receive all that this season has to offer: awareness of our sins, confidence in God’s grace, and hope for the future.
Training starts February 9th!