Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
It’s the week before Christmas. And all through the church, nothing is stirring. Not this year anyway. If you are lucky, your church might have a virtual Christmas Eve service, but going to Church to sing Christmas songs in a pandemic is a non-event. Still, you have to retain your sense of humor and sanity by soldiering on.
My wife went to Hobby Lobby, a Christian crafts store, and found a Nativity Scene that she liked that was marked down by 60%. As she was checking out, she commented that she couldn’t believe it was so inexpensive. The store clerk answered: “Oh, that’s because Joseph is missing. But that’s OK because he didn’t do much anyway.” I’ll let that sink in.
This is a year where everything has been turned upside down. People have lost health, finances, jobs and freedom. Even smaller losses have passed us by such as music and worship. We have lost touch with music because we spend less time in venues where music is played. Concerts have been cancelled and singing in choirs may not reappear until after vaccines have been widely distributed.
Life may not get back to normal until next winter, according to one creator of a vaccine. I suspect it will be quicker than that, but still, normalcy is months away. I doubt there will be government mandates to take the vaccine. But I also suspect that your life will be limited unless you do just to board an airplane, meet indoors or conduct other normal activities.
With government restrictions trying to tamp down on families spending Christmas together, I thought about what I and others are missing. I love to sing. I joined our worship team several years ago, and it is one of the joys of my life. This Christmas, we won’t perform. I am bummed. I will miss singing.
I understand that singing in a closed area increases the risk of spreading COVID. I get that. But somehow, I approach this Christmas with a feeling of loss. I suspect I am not alone because the entire advent season has been restrained by COVID.
Which brings me to Immanuel (or, if you are reading the King James version, Emmanuel). The name appears only three times in scripture. The first is in Isaiah 7:14, above. The third is in Matthew 1:23 which shows the fulfillment of the prophesy and the name assignment of Immanuel.
Immanuel means “God with us” or “God is with us”. It is a humbling paradox that God came to live among his people. That’s us. He came for us and gave His life in exchange for us unholy, sinful people.
But we still have Immanuel. We can still celebrate God with us on our own. Immanuel expresses a seeming paradox that the Kingdom is here, and the Kingdom is coming. That’s what Advent songs are about. Here are some to enjoy:
- Christmas Day – Chris Tomlin
- Emmanuel – Hillsong
- Jesus, Name above All Names – New Life Worship
- What a Beautiful Name – Hillsong
- Hark the Herald Angels Sing – Amy Grant
- Sing We the Song of Immanuel – Boswell
- O Holy Night – Passion
- Joy to the World (Joyful, Joyful) – Wickham
- Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) – Tomlin
- Naka Ekele Mo – A song my friend Ada Babajide sings with her family.
If my wife were writing this, there would be more 19th century hymns. But these are a start at worship during Advent when the church is empty. We yearn for the presence of God in our lives during tumultuous times. May this music bring you closer to what God promised Moses in Exodus: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
May it be so with you. May you be blessed this Christmas!
MORE SONGS: 25 Advent Songs (Includes traditional hymns)
FINAL SONG: The Blessing – Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes
MentorLink: For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.
SUBSCRIBE: You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address.