Friday, December 23, 2011

Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel.

An antiphon is a short sentence sung or chanted before the psalm or canticle in certain liturgical traditions. The seven "O Antiphons" date back to the ancient Church and are used to celebrate the final seven days of Advent, the last week before Christmas. Each O Antiphon is a name of Christ or one of his attributes described in Scripture. You probably recognize them as from the verses of the popular Christmas hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Isaiah had prophesied:

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel, which means God With Us." Isaiah 7:14

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31

God with us.

Can we comprehend what that means? That God is with us?

He's not distant, aloof, a deity apart and completely removed from human life.

He's not arrayed against us, a fearsome deity whom we need to appease.

He's not with just some segment of the population, with you and against me or with me and against you.

He is with us.

He is here. He's been here, in a frail human body with its frail bodily needs. Facing temptation and overbearing mothers and sibling rivalry and senseless cruelty. He has been human with us; He has walked this earthly path with us.

He's on our side. He came down Himself to be the appeasing, atoning sacrifice. He is for us, and no power can stand against us.

He's here for us all. For every man, woman, and child who believes in the Baby who came, died, and rose again, who has faith in the saving power of that sacrifice. Even though we disagree on particulars. He came for us all.

And yet.

And yet we mourn in lonely exile. He is here, with us, yet we pray, oh come, oh come.

What a strange twilight world we live in, in this time between the Coming and the Coming Again. In this time of God With Us/God's Gone Away. The Baby came but the Baby left and this Spirit he's left us, well, it's a little harder to wrap our heads around, it's a little harder to understand, to know, to feel its presence.

Do you ever feel like there's a little veni, vidi, vici in the veni, veni, Emmanuel? He came. He saw. He conquered death. Now you're on you're own.

We're not on our own, of course, even if it sometimes seems that there can't be too much God here in this world. God is still with us, but He's with us in our captivity. He conquered death, and now death sets us free from an exile that can be lonely indeed.

Even exiled, we are not alone. How hard that is to remember! God is with us, and who can stand against us? We are not alone.

Even so, Lord, quickly come.

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

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