Sermon for Advent Evensong

Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle

December 19, 2018

O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

These words were written in Latin over a thousand years ago. Despite the great distance between us and the original poet, something about them still rings true. We aren’t in exile in the same way Israel experienced exile. But we still know loneliness and separation, feelings which can be particularly acute and painful this time of year. For some of us, the grief is amplified by the joy, however superficial, which surrounds us.

O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go.

We live in a world of instant communication and instant counter-response. Words of anger and vitreal fly about the internet without thought to consequence, without thought to the damage those words can do to precious relationships, relationships with others made in the image of God just as we are. Without wisdom, our words have the power to cause grief in another beloved heart of God. How would we respond if paused even a moment before speaking, to reflect on the wisdom of the Christ Child, love incarnate? What would our path look like, our words sound like?

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe.

We have heard the stories of God’s great works. God loved the people of Israel enough to give them the Torah, to show them a better way to live and love one another. We know of the Great love God has for His people, how mightily His hand saves. And yet…we live in a world filled with loss and pain, where love is sometimes hard to find and the hand of God is rarely apparent. We listen for a mighty word from the mountain yet hear nothing. As hard as it sometimes is, that is the nature of being people of faith. We wait with “assurance of things hoped for…conviction of things not seen.” We wait not knowing what the outcome will be, knowing only that God, Immanuel, will be with us. We wait, just as Mary and Joseph awaited the birth of their son all those centuries ago.

O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave.

O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death’s abode.

And come, he did. But not as a big, strong general with armies to spare, to sit upon a mighty throne in the halls of power. Jesus, God incarnate, God of all creation and maker of the Universe came as a tiny, helpless infant. Not only was he army-less, he was like all infants: entirely reliant on others, unable to care for even himself. He was adored by his parents and grew to become a puzzle to his village neighbors. He boldly stood up to systems of power which added to human suffering. His call to live a better, more loving life echoes across the generations to our own. The authorities, fearing his call, put him to death. But there is no end to the love of God, no depth God’s love cannot reach. On the third day, he rose to new life, a life more glorious than you or I can ever imagine.

O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light.

Jesus comes to bring light to our lives and knowledge of the pathways of love. Jesus incarnate, living and breathing just as you and I, was as vulnerable as each of us, yet still chose to live the Way of Love, shedding light into the darkest corners of our hearts.

O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace.

As we await his coming, may we ever follow in His paths, united by the power of his love. Oh Come, Immanuel. Come, Immanuel. Come.

O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.