Sunday, November 28, 2010

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

During Advent we greet the gospel singing verses of the hymn "O Come O Come Emmanuel”— based upon the O Antiphons, ancient Latin refrains adapted for our congregational use. In these verses we are singing a 19th century translation of a 12th century version of 9th century lyrics based on the first century words of Matthew which cite the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.

These words, so old and so new, bring us right to the present moment - the moment of freedom God has given us in Christ Jesus - and beyond into the fullness of the completion of his work in the world: his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

We greet the coming Christ in a variety of titles, drawn from Old Testament prophecy and writings, from the Torah and from the Gospels. They include Wisdom, Lord of might, off-spring of Jesse, Key of David, day-spring from on high, desire of nations, Son of God, teacher, King of Peace. They begin and end with the name Emmanuel: God (is) with us.

come thou unexpected Jesus
come and set your people free
we have been waiting for you a long time
not for ourselves only; for everyone

the days are cold and brief to begin with
night comes without fail to put an end
to our day’s striving

in the middle of the night
in the cold the dark the forgotten
you come
you come to us, unexpected Jesus
in the least likely moments
of our lives
we’re not ready; we’re always ready

it’s up to us
to open our eyes and awaken
to get used to the fact
to be there when you arrive
ready to greet you
whatever your appearance
however you name yourself,
or are named, this time –
you come to us in so many
guises, so many faces, so many ways
for each of us is made in your image
our souls bear your stamp
not of bondage but of freedom
for your mark, the mark of a
believer in you, that mark is love
If we practice it everyday
we just might find it indelible
when we seek you
we just might see you
when you arrive
we might know you

for the secret is
we are all seeking the same thing
and the same thing is seeking all of us
we may greet you differently
call you by different names
- Wisdom from on high
- Lord of might
- God with us
but we all know we want to know you
as you know us
we wish to be known
in the breaking of the bread
and in the prayers
in the apostles’ teaching
and in fellowship
in our lives our work our hands
our family friends and strangers
we seek you we wish to know you
we want to come to you
but you have already come to us
already but not yet
you are present among us

in the hope in the promise in the
ready way your world is made
to greet you when you arrive
come to us Lord Jesus come and
ransom your people captive to sin
we await you in a foreign land
where we cannot sing the songs of home
unless you are there with us in the
midst of our trials, our struggles,
our fears, the fires of temptation
we await, we anticipate, you
make yourself known to us
reveal yourself, be active, show up
we rejoice and are glad of the
promise of salvation
you will come and help your people
you will come and set us free

come to us Spirit of Wisdom
in you all things have (found) their being
from the beginning you set them in order
all creation bears the pattern
you imposed
you yourself are the light and the path
show us how to be wise in our folly
that we, following you, may find home
Breath of God breathe on us
breath in us
be our guide to life
show us the right way
lead us into truth
the truth of your love
the truth of your light
show us the way and
be with us upon it
God Emmanuel God with us Amen

In ancient times to ancient ones
you gave your ancient law
in a cloud
you hid yourself, in a cloud
you showed yourself – shielding
us from the pure brightness of
your glory and still in the hiding
in the very mystery calling us
beyond it in your light
I AM you said
I am the one who is
I am the One whom Jacob saw
struggling obscurely in the night
wrestling with angels on the bank
of the river
I am the one whom Moses saw
who led him (to be) shepherd of his people
I am the one who Abraham saw
counting the endless stars at night

knowing each star bore your promise
a promise of his fulfillment
in your faithfulness
in the knowledge of your glory
I am the One you said who
saved Isaac from the
ram’s place in the thicket
I pulled him out and sent
him on his way
not an abject sacrifice
but an obedient servant
A Son like my own giving my self
I am the One you said
who sets you free
who leads you now
from despair to hope
from sin to grace
from death to life
Come to us Lord Jesus

and lead us by unexpected ways
and hidden paths that we
may know you in the
full pleasure of your glory
you give us sustenance and hope
on the way
you give us the bread we need today
and the promise of tomorrow
of a Kingdom there beyond our hope
beyond our plans
beyond our believing
even what we know is to follow you
what we know is you are the way
make us ready
keep us awake
that we may see you
or not seeing you
greet you all the same when you come
and Do come O Lord thou unexpected Jesus

Come home to your homeless people
that we may find our rest in thee
Call us to your home to be your people
make us restless until we rest in thee
not in our own ways
our own deeds
our own knowledge
that are foolish lost false failing
without you
they are without meaning
But with you and in you
and with you
may we follow on the journey
the path to life
and in every step on the way
may we be coming to know you
even if we know it not
be with us in doubt
be with us in faith
be with us
Lord Jesus



As John Wesley, the preacher and hymnodist, lay dying, he lifted his arms and rejoiced, “The best of all, God is with us.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen. (Revelation 22:20-21)



The Hymnal 1982, (New York: Church Hymnal Corporation, 1982) Hymn 56.

The Hymnal 1982 Companion, Raymond F. Glover, ed., (New York: Church Hymnal Corporation, 1994) Hymn 2.

A Theological Word Book of the Bible, Alan Richardson, ed., (New York: Macmillan, 1950) esp. “Emmanuel” by J. Y. Campbell and “Magnify” by J. S. McEwen.

The Hymnal 1940 Companion, ed. 3 (New York: Church Pension Fund, 1940, 1951)

Sermon for 8 o'clock,
2010 November 28, First Sunday of Advent,
St Alban's Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash.



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