#QOTD: Fourth Sunday of Advent

What must it have been like for Mary at last to be recognized as faithful and obedient? She has been surrounded by suspicion, hard words and looks, and her swollen belly has been seen as a symbol of her faithlessness to the covenant, not its fulfilment. But now, Elizabeth and John see her for what she really is, the Ark of the Covenant, and John dances in the womb, just as David danced before the Ark, rejoicing in the presence of the Lord.

Jane Williams, Lectionary Reflections: Year C (London: SPCK, 2003), 9.

Songs for Advent: Deliver Us (Behold the Lamb of God)

One of my favorite Christmas records of all time is Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God. If you are unfamiliar with both this record and Andrew Peterson, I would highly suggest that you fix that immediately! Andrew is a fabulous songwriter and storyteller. His music is constantly playing in our house and car.

Behold the Lamb of God is the story of Jesus set to music, and for me, Deliver Us is song that resonates the most. Sung by another one of my favorite musicians, Derek Webb’s Deliver us tells the story of God’s people in slavery; not a slavery in Egypt from which we need a deliver to come and take us to a promised land. Rather, we cry out for a deliverer from our sin and rebellion.

If you listen to Deliver Us, you may pick up on some similar themes and motifs that are also part of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Deliver Us
Our enemy, our captor is no pharaoh on the Nile
Our toil is neither mud nor brick nor sand
Our ankles bear no calluses from chains, yet Lord, we’re bound
Imprisoned here, we dwell in our own land

Deliver us, deliver us Oh Yahweh, hear our cry
And gather us beneath your wings tonight

Our sins they are more numerous than all the lambs we slay
These shackles they were made with our own hands
Our toil is our atonement and our freedom yours to give
So Yahweh, break your silence if you can

Deliver us, deliver us Oh Yahweh, hear our cry
And gather us beneath your wings tonight

Jerusalem, Jerusalem
How often I have longed
To gather you beneath my gentle wings’

Songs for Advent: O come, O come, Emmanuel

I must confess, I am really not a fan of Christmas music. Some would even go as far as saying I am a bit of a grinch. Bah Humbug! I do like Christmas, and there are a few so-called Christmas songs that I find truly amazing and worth singing. My favorite one of all is the classic O come, O come, Emmanuel. There truly is no greater Christmas hymn in existence—and truthfully, this should be sung all year round!

This hymn found a home in my heart right around the time I started questioning my eschatological convictions regarding the place of Israel in redemptive history. You see, it was the first stanza that resonated with me most and to this day still does. Even more powerful was the imagery of captivity and the Son of God’s appearance in history to ransom his people. Emmanuel (Ἐμμανουήλ)—God with us!—has come to Israel, not merely the plot of land in the middle east but to his people, both Jew and now also Gentile!

O come, O come, Emmanuel is a hymn sung by captives longing for their God to come and redeem them from the tyranny of sin and death. This Advent, let us sing to our Lord for the day that we will no longer need to sing O come, O come, Emmanuel!

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, athe tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Re 21:3–4.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
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.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

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.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.