I shamelessly listen to Christmas music throughout the year. No, not jingling bells and snowy sleigh rides and all that jazz. That would just make me thoroughly discontent as I'm sweating under the tropical sun.
I'm talking about the old carols, the ones rich with hope and joy and longing, the ones that take our theology and the Incarnation story and put them to music.
O Holy Night was my favorite as a little girl, when in dramatic Rachel fashion, I'd literally fall on my knees. (If you don't believe me, ask my parents.) I still love that song, but there's another that's definitely becoming a favorite. It somehow captures the spirit of the season yet seems equally appropriate for...well...always.
O come, o come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
O come, o come Thou Lord of Might
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the Law
In cloud and majesty and awe
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel...
I sit here and mull over those words, the notes weaving their way through my mind.
The longing. You can't miss it.
Longing for relief in a sin-torn and wearied world. Longing for justice and victory and home. Longing most of all for the coming of the One who would bring peace, break chains, free captives, restore souls.
That was more than two millennia ago. The Promised Deliverer has come. He has brought peace, broken chains, forgiven, freed, and restored souls.
And yet...the longing expressed in the song still echoes, both through the halls of time and in my own heart. Why?
Because the story isn't over.
Because we're still waiting.
Because we still live in the same sin-torn world, this world that can never be our true home, and because there are promises still unfulfilled.
"...I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:3)
"This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way you as you saw Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11)
"The Lord Himself will descend from heaven...and we who are alive and remain shall be caught up...to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
"Surely I am coming soon." (Revelation 22:20)
We are His people because of Advent - His first coming - and as His people we look forward to His second coming.
We don't merely celebrate Advent, lighting candles or opening gifts or counting down days until December 25th.
It's more than a seasonal celebration, it's the essence of who we are.
We are the Advent people - the waiting, longing, hoping-for people.
Here, at the end of the year 2014, we're living between two brightly shining truths. The first - God with us. He came down and lived among us, felt our pain and took our sins. The second - us with Him. One day, He'll come again, snatching us up from this world and bringing us to be with Him forever.
This is our hope today, right now.
And just as the believers did all those centuries before Jesus's birth, we hope not with wistfulness but with certainty. God will keep His word. He always has.
So we wait.
Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly...