The Christmas season isn’t complete for me without the song, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” I know I have mentioned this before, but unlike some songs, I never tire of it during the holidays — playing it over and over on the piano. As a child we usually made it to church during the weeks leading up to Christmas, or at least on Christmas day. This is where I first heard the song, I would one day come to love. It was a very “old song” to my ears, not like “Frosty the Snowman” or “Santa Clause is coming to town,” and yet I liked the way it sounded. It seemed fitting as I sat in our beautiful cathedral as its melody filled the towering ceilings with ancient and mysterious meaning. Even though I didn’t quite “get it,” in moments like these I felt like I could get just a glimpse of “God with us.” The beauty of the Cathedral, the song, and the moment seemed to be preparing me for something.
This last week of advent the word, “fulfill,” keeps going around in my head. The book of Matthew declares:
Now all of this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son and they shall call His name, Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:22-23
“Fulfill” is a familiar word. We all know about having to fulfill certain requirements, whether it is in the course work for earning a diploma, skills or experience for obtaining a job, or a standard met for receiving an award. It also includes some kind of waiting period, anticipation or hope. Having worked with college women for years (and having been one myself), most have a mental list of their requirements for a husband. He has to be this way or that way… Especially as graduation draws near or others around are getting married, there is much anticipation and desire for “the one” who will fulfill their hopes and dreams. When they meet “Prince Charming” all their expectations come true, for he is the fulfillment of their deepest longings for a husband (well, for at least a few weeks after the wedding).
Often, I can go along in December and kind of think of Christmas as an “event.” All the weeks build up to this one day. Instead, this word, “fulfill,” gives it a “fuller” or richer meaning. It weaves Christmas into a bigger story, than just for one day out of the year. It points the world and history to something– something worth anticipating. The word “fulfill” ties Christmas to God’s larger picture of redemption in the scriptures– completing and continuing the story of God “saving His people form their sins.” Christmas becomes, not just a time for another holiday, but a fulfillment to this great story.
God with us
The verse does not stop with some sort of vague fulfillment, it tells us what it is:
…they shall call His name, Immanuel, which translated means, “God with us.”
The anticipating world receives, “Immanuel, God with Us.” For me, this adds deeper meaning and celebration to this Christmas season– making it much more personal. The God of the universe comes to be with us, even with me. God, who is the One and only true God, abundant in lovingkindness grace and mercy, full of justice and peace, comes to be with me. This is an amazing and life-changing gift! When I not only know this, but also experience the presence of God, life is richer, fuller and purposeful. This is also what Christmas offers the world: God to be with them- the greatest fulfillment, the greatest gift. This is is also the greatest gift that I can give those around me throughout the year, an opportunity to know this One and have Him with them.
As I reflect on this verse this last week of Christmas, I can’t help but think of my beloved song. The celebration of Christmas is the fulfillment of a long wait. It places Christmas, not as another holiday, but as the fulfillment of “God with Us.” As I sat in the cathedral, this is the “something” I waited and longed for: the greatest gift, God with us.
Time to be Merry
They waited for the Messiah and now we wait for His return, for the completion of the story. This fulfillment makes me excited about Christmas!
Rejoice with me!
His birth and redemption was spoken of long ago.
His birth fulfills all that was spoken through many Scriptures and through the prophets.
His birth says, “This One has come.”
His birth brings great news for a us, in need of being saved from our sins.
His birth brings His love and presence to earth and into our lives.
This gift: “God with Us”, is something to be Merry about! O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!