by Ashlee Eiland
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.
When I read these six lines, I don't imagine the tribe of Israel. These lines don't seem so ancient to me. I think of America, and I think of the Church. I think of pockets of our world where freedom is wishful thinking, and I think of my own soul at times. So much mourning has taken place in the stillness of my heart - for one reason or another. I've mourned over political division. I've mourned over immigrants who so desperately want to be seen and afforded the freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. I've mourned over children who don't have access to the best education. I've mourned over the violence that has ensued at the hands of a few individuals with assault rifles. I've mourned over the loss of my grandmother. It feels like lonely exile. Even though there are neighbors and friends and family members and co-workers and text messages at my immediate access, the feeling of lonely exile is never far from me. Where do you feel most alone in this season? What are you mourning, in your personal world and all around you?
This first verse holds a special word: until. "Until the Son of God appear." For those of us who profess to follow Christ, our loneliness, anger, sadness, feelings of exile and mourning are all so present - and yet they're so temporary. At first, there's a plea - begging for Emmanuel - God with us - to come! And come quickly! I feel this way so often, that Jesus cannot come quickly enough into the loneliness and mourning.
But then there's a command. "Rejoice! Rejoice!" So odd, isn't it? To be expected to rejoice in the midst of the exile of the desert. To rejoice as a captive - as a slave to a master, or a slave to sin. But the command to rejoice is what connects us back to hope. Without rejoicing, we will stay in despair. Without rejoicing, there is no reminder of the hope that's before us. The promise is that God with us shall come. Emmanuel is coming, America. Emmanuel is coming, Church. Emmanuel is coming, lonely soul. This Advent season, how can you intentionally rejoice in the midst of the potentially dark and lonely places?
He sees your pain. He hears your cries. He's acquainted with your loneliness and your mourning. Christ came into this world in the most humble of ways, arriving amidst the pain and groaning of childbirth: messy, cold, lonely - a vulnerable refugee avoiding persecution by a cruel and scared ruler from the very beginning.
He sees. He knows. He's coming.
Ashlee Eiland has graciously allowed us to share her post on our blog. Her post originally appeared on her blog - you can link to it by clicking here.
Ashlee Eiland has been on staff with Willow Creek Community Church since 2011, and currently serves as a Pastor on Willow's Programming team. After graduating from the University of Southern California in 2009, she began her professional career with Nestlé USA before feeling called to vocational ministry. In her current role, Ashlee loves inviting people closer to the truth of the Gospel through writing and teaching, regardless of where they may be on their journey with Christ. She also loves getting to equip and develop Christ-followers as they lean into and activate their God–given gifts – so much so that she decided to go back to school to get her Masters in Organizational Leadership from Judson University. In her spare time, Ashlee loves reading, writing, home improvement projects, yoga, and trying out new restaurants. She and her husband, Delwin, are crazy about their two kids (Brooklyn & Myles), and consider family time the best part of any day.