One of my favorite Christmas songs is “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” I love the unlikely heavy richness to the tune in contrast with some of the jingly music that comes over the radio during the holiday season. Last year I taught the song to our church ministry’s children for their sweet Christmas performance in front of the adults. Every time we sang, “and ransom captive Israel” the same feeling of overwhelming gratitude would sweep over me.
As I’ve grown in my faith over the years I’ve realized one important distinction of my condition before God saved me: I wasn’t sinking in the ocean of sin, I was swimming to the bottom. That is the condition of every person. We are born not only into sin, but loving sin and rebellion against God. I didn’t need a lifeguard to pull me up from the choppy waters, I needed a Savior to swim to the bottom and rescue me from death.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6 (NIV)
With the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, meant the ransoming of people back to God. That ransom was His death for my life. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” The punishment for my sin was paid by Christ so that I might have peace with God.
It might sound a bit strange to talk so much of sin during the Advent season with all the merriment and joyful events and glad tidings, but it is foundational in our understanding of the true meaning of Christmas. The message that God was sending a ransom for our souls, souls that were enemies of God, souls that deserved death. When we remember what we’ve been ransomed from, the meaning of Christmas only deepens, and our hearts are saturated with humility and thanksgiving to the one who came to save.
Six years ago I tasted more of the goodness of this truth as I battled pride in my own marriage. I had a gift of making everything my husband’s fault and fleeing from any responsibility from my own sinful choices and attitudes. It weighed heavily on my marriage relationship straining it in it’s sweet beginnings. In the Lord’s grace and mercy He convicted me of my sin through studying His Word. The more I learned about the Gospel and sin, the more I stared into the mirror of my own depravity. In humble repentance I acknowledged my sin before God and asked for forgiveness and for help to be humble before my husband and admit when I was wrong. Through the mercies of Christ alone, I saw my marriage change and blossom. The Gospel freed me from clinging to destruction that comes from sin.
That’s why when Christmas songs like this roll across the radio waves it means so much more than tinsel and presents; it means our salvation!
O Come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
As we sing these lines this Christmas, I pray our hearts would do nothing but Rejoice! That we would come with penitent hearts to the one who freed us from Satan’s tyranny, from the depths of hell, from the grave. Christmas is the Gospel who came in Flesh to save for Himself a people for His own possession and we rejoice.