Home » reviews & recommendations » books » O, Come Emmanuel, or, Advent LOTR Style.

O, Come Emmanuel, or, Advent LOTR Style.

Remember when the Lord of the Rings trilogy was coming out in theaters a few years ago and everyone was so Tolkien crazy? (I was in college at the time, and I even used LOTR as a template for a paper in one of my religious studies classes: “Durkheim to Barth by way of The Lord of the Rings.” I hope the Tolkien mania is refreshed with The Hobbit film.)

I read something today that called to mind this excellent quote, a remnant, programmed into my brain from those LOTR-crazy days of yore:

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.

Love mingled with grief felt poignant. Then I saw the lyrics to “O Come, Emmanuel” and listened to a beautiful, mournful version of the song. It’s actually pretty depressing: captive Israel is mourning in lonely exile, waiting. Asking God to “disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.” “Close the path to misery.” “Free thine own from Satan’s tyranny.”

But then: Rejoice!

I know Advent is about waiting for Christmas. But, I forget that waiting is a big deal only when where you are now is not so great. You wouldn’t excitedly anticipate conditions getting worse. And no need to wait and hope if you already have what you need.

Ashley wrote some great posts about Christmas in Denmark. It is a big freaking deal there. (My favorite is the kalenderlys: Christmas countdown candle!). In a land where it’s getting dark at 3 in the afternoon, it makes sense for Christmas to develop into a huge festival. Otherwise, how could one survive winter? (And good thing the church co-opted whatever pagan festival it was before…)

A life of faith is about learning to live with joy and pain at once– love mingled with grief, as Haldir/Tolkien said. Or Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” So, I acknowledge the darkness. People are sick, relationships are crappy, and sometimes there are no answers, at least not easy ones. But then: Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
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
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

3 thoughts on “O, Come Emmanuel, or, Advent LOTR Style.

  1. Last week in church we sang another great Advent hymn, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” acapella. It was wonderful:

    Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
    from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.
    Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art;
    dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart!

    Great line from LOTR!

  2. Pingback: Advent, part 2 « tell me a story

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