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.
Sometime during my childhood, my family started the tradition of singing this beautiful hymn at the dinner table after lighting the candles of the Advent wreath. My husband and I have continued this tradition with our own children, whose joyful enthusiasm for this beloved hymn usually leads to some let-down during Christmastide, when liturgically, we stop singing “O Come, O,” as our eldest son used to call it. Perhaps we need to find a Christmas hymn to succeed it this year!
The tradition of singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” surrounded by those I love best, everyone bathed in candlelight on a cold winter’s eve, never fails to move me. Something about the haunting melody coupled with our single-mindedness as a family in calling the Lord to come rescue us really drives home the importance of the domestic church. Here we are, a little church, expectantly waiting, along with the wider Church, the birth of Christ.
And of course, the expectancy of Advent is but a part of the greater expectancy we nurture as we tread the path to heaven and say to each other: Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths (Is 2:3).
In these beautiful evenings of Advent, when just for a few moments the children have stopped nagging each other, and I have stopped nagging them, and we are all mesmerized by the light of the candles, there we can see a foretaste of a time when all people will truly . . . beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord! (Is 2:4-5).
Dear Lord, help me this Advent to create space in my busy life to see you in my children, my husband, and myself. Help me to create a home where it is possible to get a glimpse of the hereafter by centering my heart on you and helping my family do the same.