Something for the weekend. Tomorrow Advent gets under way and to rush it a bit we have my favorite version of O Come O Come Emmanuel, which has always sounded to me as if a group of Zealots were singing it. Emmanuel or Immanuel, “God With Us”, comes from the seventh chapter of Isaiah:
10 And the Lord spoke again to Achaz, saying:
11 Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God either unto the depth of hell, or unto the height above.
12 And Achaz said: I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord.
13 And he said: Hear ye therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also?
14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.
These words, which would find their fulfillment in Christ, were uttered during a time of calamity for Judah. The great Syro-Ephramite War was raging (736 BC-732 BC) which set the stage for the ultimate destruction of the Kingdom of Israel by Assyria, the super power of the time in what we call the Middle East, in 721 BC. Judah would avoid destruction by Assyria in the aftermath of the war, but only by the smallest of margins.
In that time of doom Isaiah began the great cycle of messianic prophecies centered around the messiah, Emmanuel, God With Us. There is a great lesson for us in this piece of history. No matter how desperate our situation in this world, God is with us. Nations rise and fall, triumphs and disasters come our way, and through it all God is with us. That is the great meaning of Advent.