The theme we have selected for Advent this year is a prayer, a plea, an appeal, for God to come and be with us. Emmanuel (no matter how you spell it) means, “God with us.” So, this most recognizable of Advent entreaties is a simple call for God’s presence. It is a cry of hope, with more than a hint of desperation included.
When Judah was threatened by destruction from all sides and there seemed to be no way out of the desperate situation, Isaiah told King Ahaz that God would send a sign of deliverance. “… 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.” (Isaiah 7:14). The God who was faithful to Abraham and Sarah, the God who delivered Israel from captivity in Egypt, the God who led the people and fed them in the wilderness would enter the darkness of the world and be “God with us” once again.
This advent plea is a recognition of our situation and of the need for something beyond our tired solutions. It is a cry for an end to the suffering that weighs us down and renders us too tired to fight. It is an honest recognition that we, by ourselves, have not been, nor shall we be, able to turn on the lights in the middle of our present darkness. Heck, we can’t even find the light switch!
Come, Emmanuel is not a prayer of hopelessness. Come, Emmanuel is not a cry of desperation after we have thrown our hands up in resignation. Come, Emmanuel is an appeal to God to join us in our suffering, to stand with us in the dark, to come alongside us, and give us the strength, the faith, the patience, we need to hope.
Will Willimon, a preacher, teacher of preachers, and retired Methodist Bishop says that the season of Advent with its prayer, “Come, Emmanuel” is a plea for patience and an act of love. He says, “Waiting for God to show up is one of the most challenging aspects of staying in love with God.” Advent is to pray, plead, and appeal to God to be with us. This has happened in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It will happen again. Loving God is trusting that God is trustworthy.
Join us in this Advent season for weekly worship, as we cry out, “Come, Emmanuel.” Gather on Sundays as we light a candle each week to mark our time of waiting. Gather on Wednesdays as we allow God’s Word to shape our love through patience and prayer. Take home devotionals for adults and families, entitled “Come, Emmanuel” so that our homes may be a place of trusting, loving, and waiting for the promised One to come.
God will not let us languish in darkness alone and will not fail to deliver. That is a promise kept often and worth trusting.
Tim Olson – Lead Pastor