Scot McKnight once noted that one of his favorite Christmas hymns is, “O Come, O Come Immanuel,” a 12th Century hymn originally penned in Latin. It wasn’t until 2008 that I heard the Latin version and since then have heard two more renditions in Latin – the most recent being a version sung by Enya, “And Winter Came” .. an album that is rapidly becoming an Advent season favorite for us).
It’s not just that the poetry or the raw beauty of “Veni, Veni Emmanuel,” but the way it evokes both the joy of Jesus coming, and the longing for the arrival of the new world. We live in between the times. Some days we feel the presence of the kingdom in our friendships, at a table with family, or sitting in front of a warm fire while the snow is falling. At other times, we long for the arrival of the new world.. aware of our own failures, the darkness in the world, the hunger and loneliness and pain.
And while many of are rejoicing in Jesus arrival at this time of year, many are much more aware of the absence of the future kingdom. While we are all away from home in some sense, all living in exile, at METRO, a street based community, we better understood the longing for God’s just reign. Many had not seen their families in years. Many lived with regret more than joy, or wondered if they would ever find a way to leave the street life behind.
So, with our brothers and sisters in prison, or who have experienced deep loss, or who are so aware of this world between joy and sorrow, we sing..
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.