Saturday, December 24, 2011

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Everyone has Christmas memories. A special ornament that reminds you of a childhood craft project. A batch of baked goods that takes you back to familiar smells and tastes of your family kitchen. If you're like me, there's a number of them stored in your memory bank. And for me, today it was a song.

It was this time 12 years ago (gulp - I will not admit my age) when I was riding across the countryside of England with collegemates on a Christmas mission trip. Learning the proper etiquette of high tea and grabbing onto the lingo of saying "Cheers" instead of hello was not why we had come. Our ministry was in prisons. To inmates. Criminals. It was a ministry called "Within the Walls" and we sang Christmas carols and performed drama presentations to present the love of Christ - no better time than Christmastime.

One of the songs we sang was Phillips Craig & Dean "O Come O Come Emmanuel" and I heard it today and it took me back. England is cold and bleak at this time of year, but even colder was behind the stone walls and iron gates of the prisons. Even colder than that were some of the hearts that had seemingly turned to stone. But that's not the memory I went back to. Instead I was reminded of the warmth and love that we shared - and received - from convicted criminals who needed to hear of a Savior sent to change the world - their world.

I received several letters after that trip and one of them wrote:"Thanks for your concert and all the joy that you brought. Thanks for your spirits in your thoughts and as you sang. Thanks for reminding us that He still guides us above - even behind these walls. But most of all, thanks for reminding us we are loved. I thought I'd been abandoned for I know I've done wrong. But the Lord is always our Savior and now I know His love will keep me strong."

You might not be behind walls, but your heart may be imprisoned. You may not be locked up, but you may be searching for freedom. Maybe your Christmas memories aren't as pleasant. Maybe reminiscing stirs up emotions that are hard to deal with.

But at this time of year, with the reminder of this song, I'm also reminded He is Emmanuel - God with us - wherever we are, whatever situation we're in, no matter how difficult, regardless of our position.

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

Is your heart held captive by the situation you're in? Are you mourning in loneliness? REJOICE! He is Emmanuel, God with us, Appearing to us.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Are the dark shadows casting gloom over you? REJOICE! He is Emmanuel. God with us, able to remove the shadows and clouds.

Rejoice. He is Emmanuel. No matter what you face. No matter what state you're in. Regardless of your circumstance. He is Emmanuel - God with you. Coming to you, O Son, O Daughter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1R0ki-QTkmc

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