Longing in O Come, O Come Emmanuel

In Daily Devotional by Steven Sukkau

Theme of the Week: Christmas Carols

Bible Verse: “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:23

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:23, Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 4:30

As a father with young children, experiencing Christmas with them, through their eyes is pure delight. The trappings of a North American Christmas are overwhelming to the senses: the lights, the toy commercials, the food, the movies, the nostalgia. It’s no wonder we feel the January blues after so much ecstasy.

Sometimes I wonder if we are in danger of falling into a shallow appreciation for Christmas. One that ignores and pushes down the pain and suffering in our world and focuses solely on the fun. What a missed opportunity!

Not that the joy of celebrating the birth of Christ is bad by any means, but sometimes all the traditions can obscure the full story of redemption God is telling. The joy of the Advent is even more important when we remember that Jesus came to fix the brokenness of our world. If we pretend, even for a moment, that brokenness and pain do not exist, it’s all the more challenging to connect with the hurting people around us.

Thankfully, carols like O Come, O Come Emmanuel provide an antidote to the delirium of the feasts and gifts. While there are fewer jingling sleigh bells or hallelujahs here, this haunting song is a reminder that, even wrapped in decorations and engorged with treats, we should still acknowledge the deep longing inside of us all. A longing for the world and all things to be made right.

The seven verses express a pregnant desire to see ancient prophecies and promises fulfilled. The unknown writer laments the “not yet” of our current reality on Earth, even as we’re reminded to “Rejoice.” Our joy is both bolstered and tempered by hope and expectation.

We still live in the lands beyond Eden, and our debt is paid, but we long to see Christ return and wipe away every tear. We still “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

The Christmas season is one of longing and waiting and should invite the lonely and hurting to join in with the spirit of expectation, rather than push them away.

As you sing and listen this year, let O Come, O Come Emmanuel fill you with a deeper hope, one that holds the tension that John Piper describes as “already” redeemed (Ephesians 1:7) and “not yet” redeemed (Ephesians 4:30).

Prayer: Father, thank you for the love that brought You down to Earth. In our delight of the season, help us to find hope and faith in the waiting and longing, and to see the hurting and broken as well. Help us encourage those who desperately need to connect with the story of redemption, one that we are still in the middle of.

Reflection: Do you find it difficult to connect with people who are hurting at Christmas time, or do you yourself find the holiday difficult because you feel you have to be happy all the time? Spend some time reflecting on how the season is also a time of longing, of patiently waiting and trusting in God’s bigger story of redemption.

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Steven Sukkau
Steven Sukkau is a writer, journalist and radio broadcaster living on the Canadian prairies with his wife, two daughters and hyperactive terrier.
Steven Sukkau
Steven Sukkau is a writer, journalist and radio broadcaster living on the Canadian prairies with his wife, two daughters and hyperactive terrier.