We bring many hopes and expectations to Christmas. Children dream of wonderful presents; families anticipate gatherings with loved ones; economists anticipate a boost to the economy. When all goes well, Christmas seems “the most wonderful time of the year.”
However, Christmas can be a time of emptiness, even depression, as it becomes clear that some longings will not be satisfied. Striving to make everything perfect may leave some exhausted or overcome with feelings of failure; longed-for visitors may be unable to come; grief arises fresh over those who have passed away; January credit card bills loom large. And all the tinsel and wrapping paper in the world cannot cover up or alter the reality that, when the holidays are over, there will still be conflict in the world, sickness, and all the other troubles of this life.
he familiar Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” is a medieval prayer of the “Great O antiphons” from the 8th century or earlier. It recognizes the gloomy condition of mankind--captive, lonely, under Satan’s tyranny--and uses messianic titles from the Bible to invite God into each situation and to all people regardless of their circumstance in life.
Knowing the Messiah has come and promises to come again, Christians join this prayer of the ages and in joyful faith call out:
O Lord of might
O Branch of Jesse,
O Key of David,
O King of nations,