Coleta United Methodist Church

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

One of my favorite stories is about a little boy. He was playing T-ball, and there was an old man who was out for his daily walk. He came by this baseball field where this little T-ball team was playing with another team. And the man who’s out for walk walked over to the outfield fence, he leaned over the fence, and he asked a boy. “Um, what’s the score” Because the man had noticed the store set on the scoreboard, “18 to nothing.” And you know this is bad for T-ball game, right? So the man wanted to cheer the boy up, so he leaned over the fence and he said to the little boy, “Hey, what’s the score of the game?” And the little boy looked up and he said with a big smile, “Oh, Mister, we are losing 18 to nothing!” And the man said, “Well, you don’t seem to be very upset about all this.” And the boy said, “Oh, why am I upset? We haven’t been up to bat yet!” Don’t you like that kid’s optimism? Don’t you like to have that kind of attitude? Sometimes I struggle with my attitude. I don’t know about you, but I do. Sometimes, even on the same day, I can feel hopeful and feel like even if the store is 18 to nothing. You know what? There’s still hope, and I know that God’s going to show up. I know that God’s gonna see me through. Do you ever feel like that? And then during the same day, does it over occur to you that maybe you are in despair? I am talking about the same exact day. Sometimes I can go home after preaching and I sit at home and balance out my checkbook. And Sunday afternoon is not a good time to balance out the checkbook, right? I talked about hope at the service in the morning, and now I have no hope! I am just back and forth. My attitude goes up and down.

I have a friend who is kindergarten teacher. I love her. She is an amazing person. But sometimes she uses her teacher voice when she talks to her friends like me. And that’s really funny. I remember one day I was having a rough day as far as my attitude. I was meeting my friends and I was all grumpy, had a bad attitude about just everything. And finally, my kindergarten teacher friend said to me with her best kindergarten teacher voice. She also stomped her food and said, “Sophia, it’s time for an attitude check.” And I mocked her for saying “attitude check” for about a month. I thought that was hilarious.

Today, we are going to do an attitude check or sort of. Because I believe all of us want to have that attitude that the little boy had, right? Yet, let’s be honest many times we struggle with having such a hope-filled attitude. If that’s you today, I got good news that even in the most difficult times, we can have hope, we can have the thrill of hope in our heart and we can even rejoice. You know the hardest time for many of us to rejoice is when we are waiting, waiting for something. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with waiting doctor’s results. It’s not a fun time, is it? And I don’t like waiting in traffic. When 88 has lots of construction going on during summer, so they only open one lane for miles and miles, and I got stuck in my car waiting in the traffic, wow it kills me, doesn’t it? I even have trouble waiting with microwave popcorn. I am that impatient. I know, once James, March, and Joseph invited me to their place and they showed me how to make popcorn. It was fun! But if I lived in that time that we need to make popcorn like that every day, I would’ve died in anger! I put popcorns in the microwave and that I feel like that 30 seconds are like forever! See, I have a hard time waiting. And I don’t think I am alone in there. I think all of us at times struggle when it comes to waiting. In fact, Pastor Jeff Manion wrote a book called, “The Land Between” and it’s about times of waiting, times on the journey of life. We have to choose our attitude and which way we are going to go because every one of us is on the journey, right? In the book Pastor Jeff summarizes our life that maybe some of you are living in today. Our life is usually captured between two poles. You are either here or you are there, or you are on the way between here and there. Isn’t that true? Some of us are waiting today for those test results, some of us are waiting for a relationship to be restored. And you might be in the in-between time. You might be in between here and there. “There” looks really good. “Here” is not so pleasant. Living in-between, it can be confusing. Many of us are living in that in-between time and I really think that’s why I like reading the Bible. In the Bible, there are people and they are a lot like you and me. They struggle with that land between. Can I tell you by the way how long it’s going to take to get from here to there in your life? It’s going to take as long as it takes. That’s how long. So the question is how will we do it waiting? What would one attitude be when it comes to waiting. People in the Bible, all the time they waited. They journeyed from here to there. As soon as they got there, it seems like they have to go somewhere else again, or even they had to move backward.

And people in the Bible, the real people, the nation of Israel was stuck in that in-between time over and over again. They were moving in-between all the time, right? I love reading their story, don’t you? Because we can learn from their mistakes and we don’t have to go through what they did. So we can learn lessons about what it’s like to travel from here to there from the Bible because God’s people were given messengers by God to come and to give them the good news. And one of the messengers was a man named Isaiah. He came to some waiting people with some very good news. Look with me Isaiah 7:14 (sd) Let’s read it out loud. “Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign. The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Emmanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 (CEB) Circle that word, Emmanuel in your note. We all learn it from Sunday school that Emmanuel means, “God with us.” A sign shall be given that a virgin conceived a human baby who bears undiminished deity! That’s the message that God’s people is given in that land in-between where we need hope, the thrill of hope in our lives. Emmanuel, God with us, teaches us that we can wait in hope that God is coming to be with us, that we can have the attitude of hope. We sing hymns and songs in church, and we sing them for the glory of God. But sometimes to be honest with you, I sing the songs to the benefit of me. I need to sing hope into my heart. And that’s what this hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” does for us. This is one of the longtime beloved Christmas carols because it is a song of declaration and also a song of invitation for Jesus to come into our hearts and souls. Can we sing the first part of the song a cappella? (sd) O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here 
until the Son of God appears. Rejoice! Rejoice!
 Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

“O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here” That’s pretty depressing verse, isn’t it? I need chocolate to get out of this mood. And then this hymn goes to a major key and declares the son of God is going to appear, Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. Can I suggest something for all of us today? That is to rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel that has come to you and me. Would you say “Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come to me!” Let’s say it out loud. He’s come to you and to me! This is what the Bible tells us to do. Remember the apostle Paul, the one who was in prison? And yet wrote one of the hope-filled books of all the Bible, Philippians. Let’s read Philippians 4:4 together. (sd) “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 (NIV) We have certainly a lot of choices in our lives, right? And God is there carrying us through, but we need to choose to rely on God. When Jesus says, “Do not let your heart be trouble but believe in God, believe also in me.” You know what that means for us? Is that it’s a choice. When does my soul need to “Rejoice!”?  We have so many reasons not to rejoice in our lives, right? We don’t rejoice because we are sick. We don’t rejoice because our loved ones are far from God. We don’t rejoice because our financial situation is not good. Jesus says, “Do not let your heart be troubled, and Believe in me!” We take our eyes off those circumstances and say, “Today, I am going to rejoice” Why? In the Lord! We rejoice today because God is with us carrying us through the darkest valleys of life on our journey from here to there.

This week I was studying about this hymn and found out this hymn has 17 verses. We don’t have a 17 points sermon for you today. You can rejoice! So here’s the question. (sd) When does my soul need to “Rejoice!”?  And the first is (sd) 1. When I don’t know what to do. Many of us face situations in our lives where we just come to an end of our wisdom. And yet that is a good place for us to be because then we can actually pray that we are going to sing now. Can we sing? (sd) O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
and order all things far and nigh;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and cause us in her ways to go.

What is the Bible says when we lack wisdom? We need to ask God. I know a pastor couple who lost their second boy at birth and had a difficult time in their marriage life. They both were grief-stricken at that time. They loved each other, but they couldn’t communicate well. They were in the land in-between. They fought every night and finally went to a Christian counselor to save their marriage. It was the husband who was meeting the counselor. He pulled all the difficulties that he was going through. And he said, “I don’t know what to do! I don’t even know how to talk to my wife.” She said, “Could you just say the words you think Jesus would say?” She said, “You tried your way, and that’s not working, correct?” “I wouldn’t be here paying all this money”, he said. And later he said it helped. He was able to see the wisdom that was not coming from him. He began to think “What would be the words that Jesus would want me to speak now?” From that thought, his marriage started to be restored as time went by. And they are still happily married until today. When we don’t know what to do, we need to call out to Jesus and here’s why. Look with me John 14: 6. (sd) “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”John 14:6a (NIV) If we have a lack of wisdom, we don’t have to go alone, Jesus is with us, and he IS the way. Go his way.

Here’s another time we need to tell our souls to rejoice. (sd) 2. When I feel threatened!

(sd) O come, thou Root of Jesse’s tree, an ensign of thy people be;
before thee rulers silent fall; all peoples on thy mercy call.

Remember the king of Israel was named David, the most favorite king of Israel, and his father’s name is Jesse. So Jesus is given this kingly title. And ensign is like a symbol of rank, it ’s a banner of representing the power of an army. And Jesus is the ensign for the people like us. One day Jesus was with a group of people who were called Pharisees, religious bullies of the day for the many folks, and a woman was dragged before Jesus. And the crowd with the Pharisees caught the woman in the act of adultery, a scandalous sin. And there Jesus says, “Let those without sins cast the first stone”, and all could hear is dead silence. People drop their stones and walk away. And Jesus says, “Where’re your accusers?” And she says, “They left.” And Jesus says to the woman, “Go and sin no more.” And there was another crowd that was around there, and they were watching and listening in, because there was tension between the two religious figures, between Jesus and Pharisees. We need to know that when Jesus said this there was a festival going on at the same time called the festival of lights, with Pharisees would light a bunch of candles on the top of the synagogue and then it would shine through the temple. It would shine out to the whole city. And people think temple has a great power that shines the whole city. And Jesus says this to people. (sd) “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. The world in Greek is cosmos. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (NIV) So Jesus says like this, “You think you got power, but I’ve got the power. You think you can light the corner of a city, but I can light the whole universe, the cosmos.” When we feel threatened, remember that Jesus, the light of the world, is with you.

And we really need to rejoice (sd) when I am afraid! Let’s sing this next verse. (sd) O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home.
The captives from their prison free, and conquer death’s deep misery.

A philosopher said, “Everybody on earth is afraid of death.” I think he is so right. We all are afraid of death. Kids are afraid of darkness and adults are afraid of illness. So, luckily we are not but there are many churches out there that has a cemetery in the churchyard. I have a friend pastor whose church has a cemetery right next to the church and the parsonage right next to the cemetery, so she has to go through the cemetery every time she goes back and forth the church and the parsonage. So I asked her, “what does that feel like?” And she said, “I don’t go to church at night at all. It is so scary!” Yeah, I get that. Theologian N.T. Wright said, “We must remember that this life is temporary.” It is not all we got. And here’s the good news. Jesus has open, eternal life for every single one of us. He is the key to the eternal life and he conquers death! Look with me what Jesus says about this. (sd) “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” That’s the reason that we can tell our soul to rejoice even if we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. John 11:25-26a (NIV) Even in the darkest moment of our life, a bright light has been brought forth for us, the light of Christ, shining into every heart. That light says to us even in the worst possible moment, “Don’t give up! I know the score says 18 to nothing, but don’t give up because Jesus has come. Jesus is the light, the way, the truth, and the life, and nothing can conquer his power. He is the way, so no matter what you’re facing, even you are in the valley of the shadow of death, we need to rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord, always! Thanks be to God! Amen.