O come, O come, Emmanuel and ransome captive Israel.
That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear...
O come, Thou DaySpring, 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! Emannuel shall come to thee, o Israel.
(~ first assembled by Jesuit hymnographer Johannes Heringsdorf in 1610)
As we hear again the familiar melody of this ancient hymn, we recognize the arrival of the Advent season. This melody is joined by the words many of us know by heart - "O come, o come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel..." What many of us struggle to find is our voice to once again this year sing the refrain: "Rejoice!" and again "Rejoice, Emmanuel." For many of us who have lost loved ones during this past year, this holiday as much as any time of the year brings our tender wounds to the surface.
This will be our first. This will be our first Christmas without them. This will be our first December and with it will come all the trappings - finding the `just right' Christmas tree and putting it up in the special corner of the house; bringing in the passed-down ornaments, then finding the perfect spot and placing them on the tree; purchasing gifts and wrapping each one with care; finding favorite recipes and filling the kitchen with those once-a-year smells; lighting the candles and humming those old, familiar hymns. For many of us this first day of Advent comes with a heaviness of heart that we have been dreading. How will our hearts make it through this Christmas? And how will we make it through the hours and days of its coming?
So much has changed. We are coming to realize that many things will just never be the same again. There is now an emptiness, a place that not long ago held mother or father, sister or brother, lover or friend. This space that now feels vacant and hollow is missing what we’ve always known to be with us. This time feels tender and precious. Without realizing it, we may find ourselves holding our breath.
And into this season of our holding on and letting go comes the call, “O come, o come Emmanuel.” Words of our faith story sung again as if for the first time this year.
As we enter into this season of Advent, these days of moving through December to Christmas, we are longing to feel again the certainty of “Rejoice.” We are waiting to be reminded of the assurance of God’s lovingkindness in our lives. We are seeking to know again the hope that comes when we hear the cry of a newborn baby.
As I’ve anticipated this tender Advent season, I have been writing words of reflection. I will offer them most every day. My hope is that they will be a kind companion for you as we journey through this month. As we make our way again to Bethlehem, may we be reminded at all the best times that we have never been alone. Emmanuel companions us. May these reflections bring comfort and kindness as you enter into this holy-days.
(thanks to friend, Susie Gentry for this manger picture for this blog page - and thanks for son, Sam for reminding how to set up a blog page. So very thankful to be journeying with this precious village)
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan (now a freshman at Guilford College) and Sam at sophomore at DHS in Decatur, GA.