“Why are these Christmas songs so sad?”
The query got here from a bit woman named Hazel. She’d been raised in a distinct Christian custom, with drums, guitars, and applause. But that Sunday of Advent, she was sitting together with her dad in a small Catholic church among the many California redwoods exterior Santa Cruz.
O come, o come, Emanuel,
And ransom captive Israel.
“I think they’re beautiful,” he whispered.
I chuckled when he instructed me what she’d requested. I’d by no means considered it that method. Church at Advent was peaceable, sure — a quiet and contemplative place, the place the noble odor of incense took the place of Christmas timber, the glint of Advent candles changed the blinking lights of retailers and lampposts, and we sang of the Holy Family relatively than Rudolph, Santa, and Frosty.
But there’s a unhappiness in Advent that higher educated Christians than I understood lengthy earlier than they heard the easy query Hazel requested her father. More than unhappiness, there’s a longing so deep that for hundreds of years within the Middle Ages, monks wore black in its presence, and nonetheless right this moment put on purple as an indication of each their mourning for what’s to come back, and the royal nature of our deliverer.
That mourns in lonely exile right here,
Until the Son of God seem.
For 4 centuries — the silent years after Malachi, last prophet of the Old Testament, and earlier than John the Baptist — our world sat in darkness. The Lord has spoken by means of the prophets, and his last prophet had instructed of his anger.
The individuals of Israel, he declared, had disdained his identify and defiled his desk. His personal monks had betrayed him, selecting to please society, allowing their sins and calling good what was depraved.
Malachi instructed not solely of the Lord’s anger, but in addition of his promise: “Now,” the Lord mentioned, “I am sending my messenger — he will prepare the way before me; and the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple.”
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
Shall come to you, o’ Israel
The music of Advent is unhappy as a result of Advent is unhappy. We had strayed, uncared for our worship, corrupted God’s temples, and blessed what was evil. But why converse prior to now tense? Is there any motive to go searching us — at our world, with all its bitterness and empty church buildings — and assume any in another way? Or for that matter, was there ever any day or night time the place we might go searching ourselves and assume any in another way?
There was — one holy winter night time, when the angels lit the skies above sleepy Bethlehem, and the Lord our God was made flesh and dwelt amongst us. “What came to be through him,” the apostle John writes, “was life, and this life was the light of the human race.”
But once more, why converse prior to now tense? That winter night time has not handed. Yes, mankind noticed the kid born in a manger, but many people didn’t know him then — and plenty of don’t know him now. Still others hated him, and so they put him to demise on a cross. But for all our attempting, we might by no means give away what the Lord had given.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt its price.
“I love you, says the Lord,” reads the primary line of the final e-book of the Old Testament, even for all our wanting and wantonness. Our time away from Eden has been a protracted exile, however nonetheless he loves us, “and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
So this Christmas, gathering with family and friends, be joyful. He who has redeemed us, who got here “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” has come. The darkness is actual, however by no means once more will we wait 400 years for his reply. God has given his reply — and his reply is his Son, Christ the Child, Christ the King.
Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth obtain her King!
Let each coronary heart put together him room
And heaven and nature sing
Merry Christmas to all.