Revive Our Hearts Radio

Come Adore, Day 1

Leslie Basham: This Christmastime, you’ll probably hear Isaiah quoted a lot. He prophesied, “A virgin shall conceive.” Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds us, this event is full of wonder.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: This is astonishing! This is impossible! A virgin shall conceive and bear a son and call His Name . . . what? . . . Emmanuel.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth—author of The Wonder of His Name. It’s Monday, November 28, 2016.

Nancy: Well, as many of you know (and as you may have heard in your churches), yesterday was the beginning of what many people call Advent—the Advent season. That word “advent” comes from a Latin word that means “to come,” or “coming,” or “arrival.”

It can mean the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. For example, you may hear somebody talk about the advent of television (back a long time ago): the coming, arrival of something that was notable.

Well, the Advent season, in the Christian calendar, begins four Sundays before Christmas Day, and it ends Christmas Eve. This is a season that many Christians around the world celebrate of expectant waiting, preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Now, I know some of your kids are having their own Advent. They’re waiting, they’re eager, they’re excited, they’re wanting to see what you’re going to put under the tree. They just cannot wait for Christmas Day! I wish that all of us, as grownup Christians, could have that kind of anticipation, excitement and expectation.

Christmas is coming! Christ has come! That’s what we celebrate as we go through this Advent season. So we’re going to start a special series here at the beginning of Advent that has to do with one of my favorite things about the Christmas season, and that is the Christmas music.

I’ll confess that I start playing Christmas no later than Thanksgiving. And I play it 'til around New Year’s, or until the people in my life are tired of hearing it. I just love the Christmas music, and I especially love the familiar traditional carols.

A carol, by definition, is a joyful song. When we think of carols, we usually think of the ones that celebrate the birth of Christ. Now, one of the problems with having so many familiar Christmas carols is that we can sing them mindlessly.

You hear them as you go into a store, and you kind of hum along. A lot of times around Christmas, we’re hearing this music, but we’re not thinking about what we’re really singing. And that’s too bad, because there’s a lot of great truth—gospel truth—that is contained in some of our favorite carols.

So over these next days, I want to take time to highlight a few of my favorite carols and to talk about their biblical foundation. Many of these carols have great, rich biblical theology and teaching in them. And then, I’ll talk about what these carols and their words mean for us and our lives today.

Let me just say that all of these carols come from a CD called Come Adore that I recorded several years ago. I have a degree in piano performance. After I got out of college, I hardly played at all for about thirty-five years. Then I said, “I’d like to do some recording.” So we got an arranger and a producer and they came up with ten (I think there are) Christmas arrangements, and we recorded those with some instruments in Nashville.

What a joy it was to offer up these carols as a gift to the Lord! They have this theme of “come adore.” That’s the title of this CD. We’re offering the CD throughout this series to those whom God prompts to make a donation to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. So you can have that and hear these carols throughout the Christmas season.

This CD, and these carols, are an invitation to come adore—to adore the Savior who came to this earth to free us from our sin and to reconcile us to God. And, in fact, that’s one of the carols we’ll be talking about over these days: "O Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Lord."

And then, there are several carols in this collection (some we’ll be talking about this week) that express the longing, the hope, that Old Testament believers had, that they would one day see the promised Messiah.

And so they would cry out, they would pray, “Come! Come!” And you see this reflected in many of our Christmas carols, like the Christmas carol "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus." They were waiting; they were longing. And then, the carol we’ll start on today, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."

This was the longing of the Old Testament believers: that the Messiah would come, that God’s promises would be fulfilled and that their hopes would be realized . . . as they were when Christ came to this earth.

Now, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" may be the oldest Christmas carol that is sung today. It’s origin dates back to the eighth or ninth century—we’re not sure. But the text comes from a seven-stanza Latin hymn. Each of those stanzas highlights a different Old Testament name or title of the Messiah.

They’re taken from different Old Testament prophets—most of them from the book of Isaia. One writer has said these stanzas—these titles—form a collage of Old Testament types of Christ. Let me read to you the names of the titles for these seven stanzas—we’re not going to talk about all of them.

  • The first: O come, o come Emmanuel—a title for Jesus (we’ll look at that one today).
  • The second: O come Thou wisdom from on high.
  • The third: O come, o come Thou Lord of might—Adonai, the Lord . . . an Old Testament name for the Messiah.
  • The fourth: O come Thou rod of Jesse (we’ll talk about that one tomorrow).
  • The fifth:  O come Thou key of David (another one from the book of Isaiah, that we’ll talk about this week).
  • The sixth: O come Thou dayspring.
  • And finally, O come desire of nations.

These are names, Old Testament titles for the Messiah, that were fulfilled in Christ. In this poem, all of those stanzas begin with the word . . . what? “O.” Now, the background—before this was even a poem—is that these seven titles with the word “O” in front of each one were called “antiphons.”

“Antiphon” means “to say responsively.” So there would be nightly services the week leading up to Christmas where people would come together and parts of the Scripture would be read— for example, Mary’s Magnificat. Then, in response (“antiphon”=“responding”) the people would say, “O . . . and then one of these names." “O Emmanuel,” “O Adonai,” “O Wisdom from on High.”

And there was a different one of these that would be the focus for each of those nightly services in the week leading up to Christmas. This created a spirit of eager longing and expectation that would build up through the week, and it would climax on Christmas Day.

Now, this is in interesting thing I learned as I was studying the background of this hymn over the last several days. In the original Latin text, the initials of these seven titles form an acrostic which, when you read it backwards, means “tomorrow, I will be there.”

“Tomorrow, I will be there”. . . just a subtle picture of the hope of Christmas Day coming. Now, we don’t know who wrote this poem, but it was obviously someone who was familiar—really familiar—with the Old Testament Scriptures.

Each of these stanzas follows a similar pattern. First, it asks the promised Messiah—called by these different titles—to come! It’s an invitation, a plea, an appeal for Him to come. And then it praises Him for one of His titles or His names, and then in most of the stanzas there’s a petition related to that name, and then in many of them it ends with another cry to come!

Come! Come! Come and visit us! We know that each of these names was fulfilled when Jesus came to earth. These titles express who Jesus is and why He came to earth. And, in fact, as we look at these different carols over the next several days, you’re going to see that that’s a theme in many of our most beloved Christmas carols—who is this Jesus who came to earth, and why did He come?

Now, let me say this: we’re familiar with these hymns, we know them, we love then, and they spark something in our hearts. If we know the Scripture, we say, “Oh, yes! That’s promised in the Old Testament.” “Oh, yes! That’s who Jesus is.” “Oh, yes! That’s why He came.”

But there are a lot of people around the world singing these carols—over this season—or hearing them sung (because this is the one time of the year that you can get away with, in some places of the public sphere, having references to Christ), but most of the people who are hearing and singing these songs are clueless about what they mean, about who this Jesus is and why He came!

They sing them mindlessly, or they hear them mindlessly. And what a great opportunity, if we’re a little more familiar with these carols—these Christmas hymns—to be prepared to have conversations with people during this season about who Jesus is and why He came.

I’m hoping that as we look—first, at four stanzas from "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," and then at several other Christmas carols over these next days—we will get a fresh glimpse of our Savior, that God will ignite in our hearts fresh wonder and awe and love for Him. And may He give us a fresh desire and burden to share Him with those in our workplace, with those in our families, those in our neighborhoods, those in our world who need to know Jesus.

I read a study, by the way, just this week saying that a huge number of people who were surveyed in America said that no one had ever told them what it meant it to be a Christian, how to become a Christian, or the benefits of being a Christian. Two-thirds or more of those surveyed said, “No one has ever told me this!” Well, maybe that could change over these next days.

You assume that they get this stuff. Well, you grew up in church, maybe; they didn’t, perhaps. So ask God who He would put on your heart to share with them the joy and the wonder of this Christmas season.

Now, let’s look at this first stanza—the most familiar one:

O come, O come Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Let’s talk about that through these next few moments. This stanza pictures the children of Israel in captivity. They were in captivity in Babylon, and they were longing for a Messiah, a rescuer, a deliverer to come and set them free. They were captive; they were in exile. We read about this in the Old Testament.

They were away from their homeland, away from their temple, away from their worship, away from what was familiar. They were living somewhere they didn’t really belong. They were in a foreign culture that didn’t know their God—Yahweh, Jehovah—didn’t honor their God.

Life was hard. It was a secular existence in which they found themselves. Does that sound anything like what we live in today? In exile? We’re pilgrims, we’re foreigners, we’re strangers the Scripture tells us. We don’t belong here, on this earth.

We’re misfits! Do you ever feel that way—in your home, in your environment—misfits. This writer picked up on this theme centuries ago, expressing the mourning, the grieving, the sadness, the longing to be delivered and set free.

We could say this also applied to the Jews when they were captives in Egypt, when they were slaves in Egypt. For 400 years they worked, they labored, they were enslaved, they were under the dominion of Pharaoh, they were in bondage, they were in exile. They cried out. They longed to be set free!

And God finally did send a deliverer, and every Old Testament deliverer that God sent was a type, a picture, of the ultimate Deliverer who would come and rescue God’s people from their captivity.

So the Messiah was the Promised One for whom they were waiting—the one who would ransom God’s people, who would redeem them, who would deliver them from their captivity. So they pray, out of their captivity, out of their mourning, out of their lonely exile—“O come, O come Emmanuel!”

Emmanuel . . . this is one of the titles for Messiah that we find in the Old Testament. It comes from Isaiah chapter 7, verse 14. Let me give you just a little of the context. You’re familiar with the verse (which I’ll quote in just a moment), but you may not be familiar with the backdrop. Where did this verse come from?

Ahaz was the king of Judah. The people of God were being threatened by an alliance of two northern armies, Syria and Israel. And the people of God, led by King Ahaz, were terrified! The prophet Isaiah came to the king with a promise from God. Here was the promise, Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive.”

Now . . . unthinkable! Impossible! We’re so familiar with this verse we just say it like, you know, there’s nothing special about it. This is astonishing! This is impossible! “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name [what?] Immanuel.” 

Immanuel . . . Hebrew for “God with us.” Now, imagine what this word would have said to a king who was terrified of two encroaching, powerful nations threatening to wipe him out. The prophet says, “There’s a sign that’s going to be given . . . a miracle, a wonder-sign . . . and the name of this child who will be born is ‘God is with us.’”

Now, if God is with you, do you think you need to be afraid of these two armies? You see, it just gives you perspective. Your position is that God has come to be with you. So this promise in the book of Isaiah had an immediate historical fulfillment—there was a child who was born.

We don’t exactly know who that child was, or what the circumstances were, but there was something special and unusual about his birth. And Isaiah was saying before the child was old enough to reason—when the child was still little—the alliance between the two threatening powers would be broken.

This sign that God gave in Isaiah’s day, in Ahaz’ day, assured the people of God’s presence and of the coming deliverance.

Now, fast forward seven-hundred years—after the time of Isaiah—and an angel comes to a young unmarried virgin in Nazareth and tells her that she’s going to have a child, Matthew 1:22–23: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken [seven-hundred years earlier] by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name [what?] Immanuel (which means, God with us).’”

So, God was with His people in Isaiah’s day, and He sent a sign to prove it. God was with His people in the days of Mary of Nazareth, when the people were under the thumb of the Roman Empire, and God sent Immanuel to be with His people. 

And God is with us today. He has sent Emmanuel, God Himself with us. The coming of Emmanuel to earth—the coming of God to earth—makes all the difference in the world . . . not just for the Jews in exile (whether in Egypt or in Babylon) or the Jews under the Roman Empire, but for God’s people today. “God with us” makes all the difference!

And so, the hymn says, “O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel, who mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.” You see, until the Son of God appeared, we were in captivity, we were in bondage, we were enslaved to Satan, to sin, to ourselves. 

The coming of Emmanuel means the end of captivity. We’ve been set free! We’ve been ransomed, we’ve been redeemed, we’ve been delivered! Until the Son of God appeared, we were in exile. That word means “to banish or expel from one’s own country or home; to drive away.” We were in exile!

You say, “From where were we in exile?” Well, Alfred Lord Tennyson said in his poem, "The Palace of Art," "We were exiled from eternal God." Banished. Expelled from the heart and the home of God, driven away by our sin. It had put us in exile from eternal God. Until the Son of God appeared, we were in exile.

But the coming of Emmanuel means the end of exile. We’re no long alienated. We’re no longer separated from God. We’re no longer separated from one another. Ephesians 2:19 says, “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

Through Emmanuel, we have been brought back home out of exile, back to the heart and home of God!

Until the Son of God appeared, as this stanza tells us, we were lonely: “Mourns in lonely exile here.” We were alienated, we were separated from God and others. But the coming of Immanuel means the end of aloneness.

You may be a single mom, you may be a widow, you may be a never-married woman in your fifties who’s longing for companionship, longing for someone to be there with you. You may be living with a huge houseful of people, and still feel lonely and alienated because, perhaps, the people you share a home with don’t share your faith or your love for Christ.

You feel alienated, separated, lonely. There are a lot of lonely people around the holidays, right? Some of them are sitting listening to my voice today. But the coming of Emmanuel means the end of aloneness. God is with us!

And as Jesus, Emmanuel Himself, said as He went back to heaven . . . He assured His disciples who were terror-stricken, they were distraught, they were grieved, they didn’t want to be without Jesus, and He said to them, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Emmanuel, God with us! He lives in that home with you. He lives in that nursing home with you or that assisted living facility or that college dorm room where you feel like you are swimming against the stream—alone in your faith for the Lord. God is with you! Emmanuel is with you to the end of the age.

Until the Son of God appeared, we had reason to mourn. Israel mourns in lonely exile. We were miserable; our plight was hopeless. But the coming of Emmanuel means we can rejoice. We don’t mourn as those who have no hope.

Yes, we live with sadness and sickness and sorrow in this world. We’ll see that again and again as a theme in these carols, over these next days. But in the midst of sorrow, in the midst of sickness, in the midst of sadness, we have assurance. We have faith that Emmanuel has come!

And so, the chorus to this great Christmas carol says, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.” Now, when the Old Testament Jews were praying, this was a statement of faith: Immanuel shall come; God will be with you; God will come, O Israel. The Old Testament believers looked forward to the coming of Messiah to deliver them from captivity.

But as New Testament believers, we look back in faith and in gratitude that Emmanuel has come. He has delivered us from our sin. And yet, there’s a sense in which we are still in exile. This world is not our home. We are strangers, we’re pilgrims, we’re aliens. We live in a fallen, sin-cursed world.

Scripture says in Romans 8 that the whole creation groans and travails in pain, waiting for our final redemption. We long for Emmanuel to come back to earth. And so we pray, and we sing: “O come, O come Emmanuel . . . ransom your captive people that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear."

But we sing it with hope, with gratitude, with faith, with praise—that Emmanuel has come, and Emmanuel will come back again for His people!

Leslie: The next time you hear the song, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," you’ll know a lot more about the background to the carol, thanks to Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. All this week she’ll be teaching through the carols that appear on her piano CD. It’s called Come Adore.

Now, do you remember what Nancy said earlier?

Nancy: A huge number of people who were surveyed in America said that no one had ever told them what it meant it to be a Christian, how to become a Christian, or the benefits of being a Christian. Two-thirds or more of those surveyed said, “No one has ever told me this.”

Leslie: At Revive Our Hearts, we’re trying to do something about that. We have a mission to tell women about the joy of knowing Jesus and how to know Jesus. We want to show the world the beauty of living out the gospel. And, Nancy, it’s so encouraging to hear about women who are discovering that.

Nancy: Yes, it really is, Leslie. Let me just give you an example: In an email that I got from a woman named Virginia, she told us that at the age of sixty-seven she started going to a new church with her husband—a church where they’re teaching the Bible and where some people told her about Revive Our Hearts.

Now she’s reading books from Revive Our Hearts, like: Lies Women Believe and True Woman 101. She says,

The Lord is graciously doing a work I never dreamed possible! I am sixty-seven years old. I’ve carried a lot of baggage, believed too many lies—and have paid the price for it.

But now, Virginia is discovering what it means to experience and live out the beauty of the gospel. You know, sixty-seven is not too old for Virginia to be used by God to mentor younger women, to build God’s kingdom, and to show His power through her life.

I’m so thankful that Revive Our Hearts has been able to help disciple her in this process. The reason Revive Our Hearts is able to invest in women like Virginia is because of listeners like you who support this ministry financially.

Now, a huge portion of the donations that we need for the entire year arrives during the month of December. So, here we are, once again, at this critical time, and I’m sharing this need with you.

In order to keep effectively ministering to women like Virginia, we’re asking the Lord to provide 1.8 million dollars between now and the end of the year. And we’ve got a great start on that, because some friends who want to encourage others to give have offered to double your gift between now and December 31 as part of a matching challenge.

That challenge—for which I’m so thankful!—is $600,000. So, would you ask the Lord how He would want to have you participate in matching this challenge—and then going far beyond it? Thank you so much for your support as, day after day, we aim to show women how to live out the beauty of the gospel!

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.

When you’re a part of meeting these year-end needs and give to Revive Our Hearts, we want to send you Nancy’s Christmas piano CD. Call 1–800–569–5959 to make a donation of any size, and say, “Please send me the Come Adore CD*,” or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. We’ll send one CD for each household that calls this week and next week.

There’s an intriguing line in "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." It talks about the key of David. What does that mean? Nancy will talk about it tomorrow. She’s back to end today’s program in prayer.

Nancy: Thank You, Lord, for the wonder of this name, Emmanuel—God with us! As we sing this over these weeks, may our hearts cry out, “O Lord, thank You that You have come to redeem and rescue Your people. We rejoice in that! And then, give us hope and praise as we cry out, 'O Lord, come. Come back for Your people! Come back and redeem and rescue us from this fallen world, that You may be praised.'” In Jesus’ name . . . our Emmanuel . . . amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

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