O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Topic: Biblical Verse: Isaiah 40:6–40:8
Advent Midweek - Advent 3
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
It all fades away. Right now, we are in the crunch time before Christmas: less than two weeks to go to get everything done. At home, you might have your tree trimmed and your lights lit. But what about all the greeting cards and notes to send to friends? What about gifts for all those people on your list? What about preparing for visiting family and planning your holiday meals? Around the church, there are still bulletins to print and decorations to display. We’ve got services and celebrations coming right up on us, with guests to welcome with our best foot forward. Less than two weeks, yet so much ahead of us! But it all fades away. Cards will be sent off, gifts get given, dinners are devoured, and family members and friends fly back to their homes. Advent and Christmas decorations come down at home and around the church, packed and hidden away. In the wake of all our celebrations, after the rush of these weeks has passed, what are we left with but winter?
It all fades away. We know that’s true, and not just for everything you might be experiencing at this time of the year. Strength fades. Beauty fades. Health fades. Winter comes into our lives no matter what we might try to do to keep it away or ignore it. The leaves have left most of the trees. Flowerbeds and fields are now covered with withered flower and dead grass. Cold settles in, burying us in its overwhelming presence. Funny thing, though: heat does the same. When the hot, dry winds blow, the plants and people alike wither. Strength and beauty fail. It all fades away. And if all that is true, how can anything or anyone stand before the Spirit of God, Who blows wherever He wishes?
God had blown away the strength and beauty of the people ofJudah. Carried off in exile, they later heard the message from God through the prophet Isaiah that comes to us today. They learned the hard way how it all fades away. So who could rescue them from exile? When all people are unreliable and impermanent, where could they put their hope? Why should they even bother thinking about anything beyond the day-to-day and the things that needed to be done: the meals to plan, the work to complete? It all fades away. But that’s just it. “All flesh is grass,” even the powerful force that holds the people in exile. Only one thing stands forever: the Word of God.
With less than two weeks to go before Christmas, Isaiah’s message speaks to us and reminds us that there is one thing that will never fade, never wither, never pass away; the word of our Lord. God would deliver His people Judah from exile and restore them to the land that they once had known. In this Advent season, God brings us that same promise and hope. The Word of God became flesh and lived among us, standing with us and for us, a people who have lived in exile, fading and withering away. Jesus is the Messiah who plants new life in you, raising it up in the bitter cold of winter or the dry and burning heat of summer. The enemy cannot stand before the One who has caused all their strength to wither and fail. Only God’s Word stands strong when all else fades away. The word of our Lord is here: He is God with us, Emmanuel.
This Advent, we can call out “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” because Emmanuel alone brings what we need. With less than two weeks to go before Christmas, hear the message of promise from our Lord that His Word offers. Jesus, our Emmanuel, is the one who is strong for you when your strength has failed in the cold of the winter. His beauty as God-with-us as a baby and later, hanging on the cross to save us, is beyond that of all the flowers of the field that wither in the summer heat. And when he returns, Emmanuel will be our all in all.
You don’t have to wait until Christmas Day to know the gifts that Jesus brings, nor do the life and restoration that Jesus brings end on December 26. In these remaining days of Advent as the cold settles or the dry wind blows, your rescuer comes to be with you. When all else withers and fades, you have someone that remains strong and sure, someone who will stand with you this day and every other, Christ Jesus, our Emmanuel.
This Advent, may all our voices cry out: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!”
Stir up your Word, O Lord, to stand in our presence. For even as we sit in a season of withered grass and fading flower, your Word stands forever. You come to stand with us. And even as we cry out in captive death, free us with your new life, just as you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.