Take a moment and listen to these two wonderful Christmas songs.
David Crowder Band, “O Come O Come Emmanuel”
Justin McRoberts, “Come all ye Faithful” (you’re lucky, I almost posted the Stryper version of his carol!)
These two songs were a part of the last Connexion of the fall semester when Bob preached the sermon “Merry Christmas from the Old Testament”. We actually sang these two songs back to back, ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ first, then “Come All Ye Faithful”. The band sounded absolutely fantastic – I was overwhelmed, especially during ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’.
But something hit me as we sang these two songs back to back – the tone of these two songs is so different. I don’t just mean musically, but lyrically as well. The first, while certainly speaking of rejoicing, set’s it in the context of mourning and exile, of gloom and ‘death’s dark shadow’. The second speaks of choirs of angels, of exultation and of the ‘happy morning’. What hit me is that both are true now of the church – mourning and exile, joy and exultation.
No one makes more clear our status as exiles in this world than Peter. Three times, at least, in his short epistle he uses the word exile or exiles (1Peter 1:1, 17 and 2:11). Peter highlights that this is a time of suffering and trial, and who among us doesn’t fee this.
But, the truths of ‘O Come all Ye Faithful’ should not be ignored either. Maybe Paul emphasizes joy more than Peter (though Peter does say in 1 Peter 1:8 that believers, even in the midst of their suffering, ‘rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory’). Paul though wrote the letter to the Philippians that has become known as ‘The Epistle of Joy’. This epistle, however, was written from jail as Paul was suffering for his faith!
The mourning and gloom of ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ is a reality for the church until the second advent of Christ. The joy and exultation of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ is a reality for the church because of Christ’s first advent. We live between the two, between the climax of history and the end of history. We need to hold to both truths or our message will be misshapen and not reflect the full reality of who we are as the body of Christ.