I chuckled recently, though, when I noticed that even as they were religiously steering clear of any reference to the birth of Christ these shows trip themselves up. Invariably some Christmas carols slip into the story, and there the real meaning of Christmas comes through loud and clear. The message of many of the classic Christmas carols is both beautiful and unmistakable. I am spending some time this year during the holiday season just reflecting on the words of some of the carols. So many of them have powerful lyrics that speak directly to the heart of the human condition and how God has acted to rescue us from it.
The song uses several ancient allusions to Jesus Christ. He is “Emmanuel.” The title means “God with us.” It communicates that God has not abandoned us, but has come to the earth to be with us and to help us in our struggle and pain. He is the “rod of Jesse.” This was a term that first showed up in Isaiah 11:1. As Israel cowered in fear because of a threatening foreign invader that seemed certain to bring destruction on them the prophet promised the coming of this “shoot from the stump of Jesse.” It was a promise of Messiah who would come to bring hope to Israel and ultimately usher in an age of unimaginable peace and abundance. In Isaiah 11:6 the prophet described that time. “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lied down with the goat.” There will be no fear, no death, no violence in this Messianic Kingdom. In other words, yes, the invader is powerful and frightening, but he is not more powerful than the God of Israel. In the end God will win and bring life to those threatened by the foreign power. What a beautiful picture of hope.
Jesus is referred to in the third verse of O Come, O Come as the “Dayspring.” This comes from Zechariah’s song in Luke 1:78. The term is a reference to the metaphorical spring that gives rise to the sun each day. It was often used to mean “the east.” The point is that Jesus is like rising sun. He brings light in the darkness and disperses the gloomy “clouds of night.” What could be a better picture for hope and life than seeing the sun rise after a long, dark, cold, difficult night? The sun brings light, warmth, hope and dispels the fears of night.
Jesus is the “key of David,” meaning he is the one who unlocks the Kingdom of God. He opens wide our “heavenly home,” makes safe the road the leads “on high” and closes the path to misery. Jesus is the Mighty One who brings us into God’s eternal kingdom where the darkness, brokenness, weariness, pain and hopelessness of this world will be dispelled forever. What a lovely picture of the real meaning of Christmas. God has heard our cries. He has entered into the ugliness, dirt, violence and brokenness of this world to pluck us out of it and give us peace and hope. He will bring us into his eternal kingdom where we will finally find the fulfillment of our deepest longings and dreams. Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to Thee, O Israel.