O Emmanuel, our king and our Lord, the anointed for the nations and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God.
I don’t know about you, but often when I look at the pictures of that first Christmas, they evoke in me a sense of loneliness. The young mother and father fending for themselves in a dirty stable. Oh sure, there are shepherds and animals … but there is always (to my mind at least) the hole left by family and friends. No matter how much activity goes on inside the stable, it still feels lonely and isolated, apart from the rest of the community.
Perhaps that’s how you feel as the countdown to Christmas races into its final days and hours. No matter how busy or full of activity your life has become, it is still possible to feel lonely and isolated. No matter how many well-wishers and visitors come by, if the family you need can’t be with you, it just won’t feel right. Lonely exile is how the hymn writer put it. It is a mournful thought indeed.
But whether such mournful loneliness is something the artists seek to stir up in us, or it is something we bring with us when we celebrate Christmas … it isn’t really true. Christmas is the end of our lonely exile. Christmas is the end of our isolation, the beginning of true community.
The stable is not a picture of loneliness, but of closest and most meaningful communion. Emmanuel – God with us! Where sin once isolated us, removed us from the community of heaven, with the coming of God in the flesh that isolation is finally removed. God is here with us in the flesh. God is now a part of our human family. And because He has become a part of our earthly family, we are now a part of His heavenly one! A family bond that stretches back through the ages, stretches across all the vast distances of this globe. A family bond that not even death or grief can break.
As the angel hosts joined with lowly shepherds in praising this Emmanuel, be comforted dear Christians, for your praises join those of loved ones of all time and space. God is with us, and in Him we are together with those who went before and those who will come after! Rejoice! Rejoice! In Christ we are one blessed family with the greatest reunion already planned. And what a Christmas celebration that will be!
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!