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.
(play the video link at the end…)
As dawns the day when the eight pounds of human,living meat arrives as God’s chariot into sticky hay, we might ask ourselves about this one line in the ancient hymn text “in exile here.” The phrase has always hit me like a great, Chinese gong.
I love this planet. It has its warts, like anything, but I love it. And its beauty is what convinces me of a God much more than thousands of books about evangelism. The Eucharist supports me and is central to my life, but like many theologians before me, it is the land, the planet, which converts me from atheism or agnosticism to a faith in God and it is the beauty of kind humans which compels me to believe the story of Jesus Christ. This cannot be an accident. A planet this beautiful and humanity this kind could not have been made accidentally any more than a cycle through an auto junk yard could leave in its wake a gleaming, Studebaker or Volvo with the keys in the ignition and running, awaiting a driver and with a cup of coffee in the cup-holder.
And yet, and yet I admit to feeling a bit in exile – a lot in need of a Savior. And here, really, is the crux of this whole Christian thing: do I or do I not want and need to be saved? Because if not, then church is nothing more than a social thing we do to feel like good people. Paid my taxes: check. Gave money to a fund to save elephants from extinction: check. Recycle:check. Helped an old lady with her groceries:check. Go to church: check. Yes. I am a good person.
I recently told a close friend that I feel like an alien from a promised land and that as beautiful as this one is, there is something else, further down the path which I believe will make the word PEACE ring with a new clarity.
In my deepest heart, I want Jesus to come. And I want to act it out today, as I have for 50 years. I want Jesus to come the way the children wanted Aslan to arrive in the Narnia series. Jesus is not just a bleeding corpse in Lent. Jesus has come to set us free. From what? A lonely exile. What exile? The ones in which we place ourselves so often and in so many ways.
Light a candle and listen to this stunning rendition of O come, O come, Emmanuel and ask yourself from what Jesus comes to set you free. And while you ponder this in your heart, listen and watch this…