O Come Again, Emmanuel

Today we begin a month-long Advent series here on the Revive Our Hearts blog, inspired by the seven themes explored in Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s Advent devotional Born a Child and Yet a King. The seven themes we’ll look at are desperation, desire, devotion, deliverance, declaration, delight, and denouement. Stay tuned! (PS: to learn more about the series and read an excerpt from Nancy’s devotional, check out Katie’s post here.) 

The human heart is no stranger to desperation. From Genesis 3 to this very moment, a persistent longing has underscored the human experience, leaving each heart pining. We can’t help but trace the refrain, There must be something better than this.

Desperation as of Old

Even in the garden of Eden—surrounded by perfection, free from sin, pain, and death, and enjoying unhindered fellowship with God—Adam and Eve were tempted to think about what could be. When the serpent presented Eve with the chance to be like God, Eve took it. Like us, she must have thought, There must be something better than this. What if God is holding out on me?

From that fatal bite of disobedience onward, the world has been groaning under the curse of sin. Our human hearts cry out in desperation daily. Yet in His grace, the Lord promised a King, Emmanuel, who would dwell with us and save us from our sins and desperation.

We first see God give this promise in Genesis 3:15 when He said to the serpent, 

I will put hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.

From this moment on, Scripture weaves a story of longing for the anticipated Christ—desperation for something (or Someone) better.

In Genesis 4 we find Eve desperate for one of her sons to be the One promised to crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 4:1) and the deep sorrow that resulted when Cain killed Abel (Gen. 4:8). When her third son was born, Eve couldn’t help but hope again, naming him Seth which means “appointed one” and saying, “God has given me another [seed] in place of Abel” (Gen 4:25). But Genesis 5 reveals that Seth, though righteous, was not the One to break the cycle of sin and desperation.

Isaac, born miraculously, seems a likely candidate as the Son of Promise. After all, the Lord made a covenant with Abraham that all of the nations of the earth would be blessed by his offspring (Gen. 22:18). Yet Isaac's life passed without fulfilling the promise. The desperation continued into the next generation. 

Solomon too showed potential to be a serpent-crusher. He was a powerful king of Israel who ruled with wisdom and peace, a son of David whose throne would last forever (2 Sam. 7:12–16). Yet, despite expectations, at Solomon’s death Israel was split into two kingdoms. God’s people were still desperate and vulnerable.

The divided kingdom faced repeated captivity and exile. God’s prophets were sent and killed. When the people finally returned home, God’s glory departed from the temple (Ezra 10). For 400 years, the Lord remained silent.

Can you hear the desperation? 

There must be something better than this. 
God, where is the One that You have promised?
We have been waiting. 
God, where are You?

Time and time again God’s people hoped, prayed, and were left longing, waiting for the One who would end the cycle of sin and desperation, the One who would bring them back into fellowship with God.

God with Us

Then, one starlit night in Bethlehem, the promised One was born quietly, in a humble manger. The King of Heaven came to dwell with us, to crush the head of the serpent, to reign on David’s throne forever, to bring us out of our exile from God, to save us from our sins. Deafening silence was replaced with a song (Luke 2:8–14).

Can you imagine the hope that filled God’s people when they saw their Messiah? Finally. The long-awaited One. The One their parents and grandparents had waited for. The One they had been desperately waiting for. 

That little baby, God’s only Son, came to live a perfect life that we never could, to die on the cross taking the punishment for our sins, making a way for our relationship with the Father. He came to rise from the grave, defeating sin and death, so that all who believe in Him would have eternal life. What a hope worth waiting for! 

Dwell with Us Again

As believers today, we’ll never know the agony of waiting for Christ’s first advent, but we know a different kind of desperation. Creation groans all around us, and though we have the hope of Christ’s death and resurrection, we still deal with the devastating effects of the curse. Our world is full of sin, sickness, death, sorrow, and pain. We look around and can’t help but think, There must be something better than this

And there is. 

Like a bride aches for the day that she will marry her groom, we eagerly long for the second advent of Christ. We wait for another song, when we will sing, “Worthy is the Lamb” (Rev. 5:12) in His presence, where there is no more death, no more sickness, no more pain . . . where He will “dispel the shadows of the night and turn our darkness into light.”

So, in the throes of our desperation, we cry out, “Maranatha! O come again, Emmanuel.”

December may be underway, but you can still get a copy of Nancy’s devotional Born a Child and Yet a King: The Gospel in the Carols. When you do, be sure to also join the Revive Our Hearts Advent book club to share what you are learning with a like minded community of readers.

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” author unknown, translated by John Neale (1851).

About the Author

Ashley Gibson

Ashley Gibson

Ashley Gibson is a native of the mountains of Maryland, lover of flowers, and an ardent believer in writing letters. She always has a song in her heart—and usually one on her lips. Ashley loves encouraging others to know and … read more …

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