Sometime between now and the last note of Nat King Cole this season, you’ll hear O Come, O Come Emmanuel on the radio. In the background of the merriment all around you, its lyrics will describe a world “that mourns in lowly exile here”.
As out-of-place as the emotion may seem, mourning is the perfect description of a land before Christmas. Scripture tells of a God who made us to live forever in a place called paradise. But now we mourn, because we dwell in a land where we were never meant to dwell, awaiting a death we were never meant to die.
For the Israelites in exile in Babylon, every foreign thing served as a constant reminder of their rebellion. They were held against their will, literally and spiritually, until a Deliverer would come, O come and rescue them.
Even if you’re not sure death was caused by this thing called sin, you can look around and agree that things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. No matter how joyful your season may be, something in the world is wrong. Wrap and decorate and trim all you want, but no amount of social reform can turn our land of exile into Eden.
This year, rethink the way you Christmas and mourn.
Use this as a season to grieve the power of death. Let your heart break with the brokenness around you. You can still laugh at staff Christmas parties and drink the eggnog, but you do so hoping for something better. You are, as poet Maya Angelou says, a caged bird who sings “of things unknown but longed for still”.
When you prepare for Christmas by mourning, you’ll know what it means to rejoice, rejoice when Emmanuel comes to you.
“…the people of Israel went into exile for their sin, because they were unfaithful to me.”
What does today’s reading tell you about people? (Yourself and others.)
What does today’s reading tell you about God?
How do these ideas change the way you Christmas this year?