“O come, O come…”
Emmanuel, “God with us,” I love this carol that speaks, sings of the heart of Advent, the season of Christian anticipation of your birth. But I wonder. Do I really want you with me?
Honestly, I suppose as long as you remain a baby, harmless and non-threatening, trying to wriggle out of your swaddling clothes, crying for your mother’s breast, then yes, O come, O come, Emmanuel, for you won’t, can’t disturb me.
But you didn’t remain a baby. Did you, Emmanuel? You grew up. Launched your mission of love and justice. Caused a ruckus. Reaching across societal boundaries between rich and poor, righteous and unrighteous, well and sick, living and dead, men and women, adult and child, Jew and Gentile. Rending sacred divisions meant to keep the peace by keeping everyone in proper (at least, according to the status quo) place. Enraging worldly authorities who took umbrage at the barest hint of relinquishing their privilege in service of the greater good.
But what else could you have done, Emmanuel? Before you were born your coming was declared by your cousin, John, also from the womb, leaping for joy at the sound of your mother’s voice. A voice that burst into a song that was no lullaby, but a righteous rant, a radical manifesto, echoing Hannah’s song of old, declaring what God would do…what God already had set in motion in your conception.
How often did your mother sing this song after you were born? Singing while she told you about your people’s history of trial and tribulation? Singing while she taught you about the God who came to her in an angelic vision prophesying liberation through you?
No wonder you grew up and did what you did. How could you have done otherwise?
Emmanuel, you, in that your life and ministry are the very embodiment, fulfillment of your mother’s song, disturb me no end! For when I sing, “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” I acknowledge anew that you already have come.
As you, Emmanuel, already are with me, taking my flesh in my mind and heart, then you also are in me.
As you, Emmanuel, are in me, then I am to be as you are, to do as you do. I am to invite all to dwell together in peace. I am to speak truth to the powerful. I am to lift up the lowly. I am to fill the hungry with good things.
Emmanuel, this kind of labor, this kind of love is hard! But you know that. Don’t you? It’s the kind of labor of love that terrifies me, for it can…it did get you killed!
Still, as life without you is meaningless, purposeless, like death to me, I sing, “I come, I come, Emmanuel.”