Monday, December 3, 2012
MONDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2012
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
In October, Gaye and I made a brief trip to New York City. We stayed near Union Square and, not wanting to brave the subway system, walked the 30 or so blocks to Times Square (and back). We must have walked through, with, and around enough people to equal the entire population of Savannah. We wandered the four floors of the Barnes & Noble on Union Square, passed small jewelry stores on Broadway that literally radiated gold light out their doors, and searched the nine floors of Macy's for bathrooms. In Macy's we were welcomed by a very friendly security guard who told us it was obvious we weren't from New York City because we just calmly walked through the doors. She said New Yorkers never walked anywhere calmly. New York City epitomizes our culture: frantic-paced and mega-consumerized. I felt imprisoned . . . .
For the last 30 years I have been a member of churches that celebrate the Advent season. All of them have ushered in the first Sunday of Advent by singing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," a lovely 12th century hymn that has become one of my favorites of the season. It is a plea to God to rescue the people of Israel from captivity . . . from exile . . . from Satan's tyranny . . . from the depths of hell . . . from the grave. Like all good hymns, it has become for me a vehicle to express my deepest longings.
Each year I pull out Unplug the Christmas Machine and Hundred Dollar Holiday, books that have been on my shelves for years. They both have subtitles about putting joy back into the season. I scan them for reassurance that I can rebel against what my culture has done to Christmas . . . stolen it from Christ and shaped it into an orgy of overconsumption . . . too many activities, too much food, too much noise, too much stuff. Gaye and I recently saw a new book in a Cokesbury bookstore entitled Christmas Is Not Your Birthday. Being a child of my culture, I wanted to buy it. I can rebel and I can make small changes, but never enough to suit me. I still feel imprisoned . . . .
I wonder about my brothers and sisters in Christ who have sung this hymn in past generations in different cultures. How many of them have felt imprisoned or exiled? Culture is powerful and we can't always set ourselves free, but every year I hear the promise . . . .
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
- Wyc Rountree