December 23 (O Emmanuel)




Listen to Audio

(Download by right-clicking and select "save link as")

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel!  


O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God.  


Isaiah had prophesied: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14   Emmanuel means God is with us.  


O Emmanuel

(Written by J. Brooke Fenwick) 


"Dad!" The shrill voice startles me awake.  I look at the time.  It is 4:05 AM.  With my heart still pounding I get out of bed, and wiping sleep from my eyes, I make my way to my son's room wondering what the problem might be. I get to his room and find him sitting up in bed with a look of sheer terror on his face.  In his still groggy, half asleep state he stares at some horrific apparition still visible to him, but completely invisible to me.  I reach out and put my hand on his shoulder. "It's okay buddy, I'm here.  What happened?"  His racing heart and hyperventilating breaths begin to slow down. "I had a bad dream."  "It's okay," I reassure "It was just a dream."  Encouraging him to lay back, I tuck him in, and say a little prayer.  I walk back to my room hoping that I can quickly get back to sleep and salvage at least an hour or so of my night before the alarm goes off.  No such luck. "Dad!"  The same scared voice calls from the other room.  This time he is sure he sees something lurking in the dark shadows of his closet. I remove the lamp shade from his night light, close the closet door, and reassure him that all is well. This scenario repeats itself; he is sure that something touched him, that he heard a weird noise, or sees creepy crawleys going across the ceiling.  Finally out of pity for my frightened little boy, but more out of a desperate need to get a few more precious moments of slumber, I say, “Grab your blanket and pillow and come lay down on mom and dad’s bed.”  In no time at all, he is sprawled across the foot of our bed, relaxed and falling fast asleep.  His little body is pressed against our feet.  He knows we are there.       


I try to fall back to sleep but I’m now wide awake.  I chuckle to myself as I think about how often being a parent is sort of a karmic experience of retribution for what I put my own parents through.  I remember when I was a 4 and 5 year old living in a rather large two story house on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle Washington.  On some nights, my poor, tired parents were like yo-yo’s going up and down the steps between their bedroom and mine as I repeatedly called to them in need of something.  I needed to pee.  I needed a glass of water.  I wanted them to pray with me.  I wanted a story.  I could think of a million reasons why I needed them in my room.  The real reason was that I was afraid of being alone and simply desired their presence.  They were in ear shot just down the steps.  But that wasn’t close enough to take away the fear of a young boy with a big imagination who saw and heard something sinister in every shadow, creak of a settling house, or flash of light through a window.       


Emmanuel means, “God with us.”  Much like my parents who were in earshot but not in my room, God has always been near to us even though our sins took us far away from Him.  But in Jesus Christ, God is now with us.  He clothed himself in the human flesh and bone of a fetus.  He grew in the womb of a virgin and was born in a very lowly, earthy place.  As he grew and lived among us, he experienced our human emotions, temptations, fears, and struggles.  John 1:14 of the Message version says, Christ “became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”  Emmanuel has come!  God is with us.       


I look at my son sleeping peacefully at my feet and think about the peace that we can have with our heavenly Father because of Jesus Christ, our Emmanuel.  It is possible for us once again to be at peace with God because of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The Angels announced His birth with the words, “And on earth, peace....”  During a violent storm out at sea, the terrified disciples awoke Jesus who simply rose and confidently spoke the words, “Peace, be still!”  Many times after Jesus healed, delivered, or forgave someone, he said, “Go in peace.”  After His resurrection when He suddenly stood among His disciples in a closed room, He greeted them with the words, “Peace be with you.”  And when He spoke of His return to glory and the promise of the coming Holy Spirit, He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”       


This season, when we hear or sing the familiar words, “Sleep in heavenly peace,” let us remember that we too can enjoy heavenly peace.  We no longer are alone.  We no longer have to fear the terrors of a dark world because heaven came down to us in the person of Jesus Christ, our Emmanuel.  God is now with us!


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


The Magnificat (Song of Mary) - Luke 1:46-55      


My Soul Magnifies the Lord

And my spirit does rejoice in God my Savior

My Soul Magnifies the Lord

And my spirit does rejoice in God my Savior      


Praise the Almighty God, He’s done great things for us

Holy is His name

Praise the Almighty God, He’s done great things for us

Holy is His name      


My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.      


From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.      


He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.    


He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.       


He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.    


He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.      


He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,    


The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.    


Musical refrain by J. Brooke Fenwick