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The great Advent hymn ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’ evokes a deep longing for the angels’ message ‘all is well’ as they sing on a dark night over a troubled world.
This year, those words come to us even more powerfully, as we sit with so much pain and struggle. The pandemic has brought many words and phrases to the fore. ‘Lockdown’ and ‘furlough’ have taken on new meanings for all of us; ‘pandemic’ and ‘unprecedented’ have become bywords for the trauma we are experiencing. We have watched challenges to democracy and integrity and possibly recognised more deeply the value of community.
What relevance then is an ancient hymn in our complex emotions of loss and lament, challenged lives and restricted celebrations?
Maybe the words of this sixth-century text actually sum up all that the world so desperately needs: wisdom, justice, freedom, light, love, salvation, hope.
In these weeks before Christmas, we share the hope of better times to come and cheer each other as homes and streets are brightened with festive decorations. Maybe we will also remember as hearts are lifted, that even without physical touch, love still exists. Maybe, in so missing touch and closeness, we will have rediscovered its importance. Maybe, in knowing love is still present, even if at a distance, or over virtual connections, we can begin to understand that the unseen God is present in the inner being of our lives.
This year, God may tiptoe more quietly into Christmas celebrations without the rousing carols or crowded gatherings, but God still comes – offering hope, peace, joy and love.
I pray, that as the light grows, we may also feel something of that promise growing in our lives.
The Very Reverend Canon Margi Campbell, Provost and Rector of St John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Oban.