Oh come, Oh come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the son of God appears
Emmanuel shall come to thee, oh Israel
The lyrics to this song have survived since the 12th century. It reflects the longing that Old Testament believers felt for a Savior to come rescue them. They had forgiveness of sin but only through the regular shedding of the blood of animal sacrifices along with grain offerings. They had access to God but only through a priest. They longed for the One who would restore their relationship with God.
“And ransom captive Israel.” There is a ransom on our souls that you and I can never pay off. It is the grip of sin that has clung to humanity since Adam and Eve disobeyed.
We, too, long for our relationship with God to be restored fully. Through Scripture, we have the privilege to read about our Messiah who came – the One whose birth we celebrate this month. But we are still exiled on an earth heaven-laden with sin. We join in the lyrics as we long for the day that the Lord returns and makes all things new.
“Emmanuel” means “God with us.” Just as God kept His promise to the Israelites by sending His Son, Jesus, into the world, so we, too, can rejoice knowing that God will keep His promise to return to this world.
How is the reality of Emmanuel a promise fulfilled? Isaiah (7:14) tells us “the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
The one blank page between our Old Testament and New Testament doesn’t adequately convey the years of silence as the people of God awaited for this Messiah. We can only imagine how many people scoffed this prophecy as lunacy – how can a virgin conceive a child?
Luke 1 tells us that God sent the Angel Gabriel to “a virgin engage to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” His message? Another one of lunacy – that she would conceive a son, name Him Jesus; that He would be great, be called the Son of the Most High; that God would have Him reign on the throne of David with an everlasting kingdom.
Mary, in response, asks the one most logical question to this prophecy, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”
God hadn’t made a mistake or overlooked an important detail. His promise dating back to Isaiah was about to come true. Mary was willing to believe God enough to obey His will for her life and for the life of her son.
December is a wonderful time of the year – one full of celebrations and excitement. Let’s not forget that it’s also a season to reflect on God’s fulfilled promises to us.