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.
This has long been one of my favorite Christmas hymns (if not my absolute favorite). I find such a raw hope in its words. "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee..." how incredible! Emmanuel is more than just another name for Christ, more than just a term for the one who is to come and save. It means "God with us." That's the hope in this song... not just that Jesus will come and fix us, not just that mourning will end but that, ultimately, this mourning will end through God's coming near to us, being with us, being for us, not just doing things for us.
The word that strikes me most profoundly in this first verse is the word "lonely." Yes, exile is lonely but it's also lots of other things. Why did the author choose "lonely." Perhaps it has something to do with this concept of God being with us. Our salvation is emphasized in God's coming to us, standing among us, being with us and mending not just our sin and our shortcomings but our loneliness. You see, if God was the sort of God whose only goal was to fix us, God could have done that from heaven. If God's love was the kind of love that could be shouted from a distance, we would have never seen the incarnation. But this God, the God revealed in the drooling Baby in Bethlehem, is not just about fixing us. This God's love cannot be shouted from a distance. This God chooses to meet us.
This is the God in whose image we were created and whose image we are invited to reflect. We are invited not just to shout our love from a distance, not just to fulfill a role or tasks for others but to truly be for others as God has been for us.