O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Have you ever noticed how time seems to speed up? I can’t believe that 2016 is already ebbing and 2017 appears on the horizon. When I was a boy, I remember long hot summers that seemed to go on for ever. Now the summers are short and wet. ‘Proportional Theory’ accounts for this (the perception of time, not the weather). In childhood, we have so little of the past, that our present seems long by comparison. The older we get, the more fleeting the present appears as we have more of the past with which to contrast it.

The Jews spent centuries waiting for their Messiah or deliverer to come. They waited so long, time’s passage must have felt slow and laboured. When He came, however, ‘His own received Him not’. Most didn’t recognise Him. They were too busy being distracted by politics and observing rituals. They simply didn’t have the time.

One of my favourite carols is O Come O Come. It captures that sense of waiting and anticipation. Its own origins are medieval:


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.


O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan's tyranny ;

From depths of hell Thy people save,

And give them victory o'er the grave.


O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,

And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death's dark shadows put to flight.


O come, Thou Key of David, come

And open wide our heav'nly home ;

Make safe the way that leads on high,

And close the path to misery.


O come, Adonai, Lord of might,

Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,

In ancient times didst give the law

In cloud and majesty and awe.


In 2016, most people are too busy with Christmas to think about Christ. They simply haven’t the time.