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The Coming of the Faithful ©

I readily acknowledge that one of my favorite Advent/Christmas hymns is “O Come All Ye Faithful” (No. 234, The United Methodist Hymnal).  John Wade’s (ca. 1743) clarion words combined with the soaring music (credited to Wade and a number of others) are at once a call and claim from Christ. When I step back and reflect on the hymn there is in its beauty a theological reflection of the essence of Christmas and the Christian faith itself.

“O come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant Oh come ye O come ye to Bethlehem; Come and behold him born the King of angels; O come let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O Come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.”

Consider the first verse along with the chorus. The faithful are called. The call comes as a word of immense joy. In C. S. Lewis’ inimitable words, “we are the visited planet.” We are joyful because God himself has taken up residence in our midst! “The Word [has become] flesh and the King of angels makes his home among us.” We are those who have seen his glory, “glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (My paraphrasing of John 1:14). This great theological claim is buttressed by an assertion that foreshadows the resurrection. Come as those who are “triumphant!” Verse two cements the great theological assertions of the hymn.

“True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal, Lo, he shuns not the Virgin’s womb; Son of the Father, begotten, not created; O come let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O Come let us adore him, Christ the Lord."

I invite the reader to think where you have encountered the opening words of verse two before. We find them in a slightly different form in the second paragraph of the Nicene Creed. “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, …” (The Nicene Creed, No. 881, The United Methodist Hymnal). We are not meant to miss the illumination of this great connection. The hymn offers us both great music and great theology. Notice again how the following two lines complete the parallel. “Lo, he shuns not the Virgin’s womb; Son of the Father, begotten, not created;” (verse 2 of the hymn) = “begotten not made, of one Being with the Father; through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was "incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human” (The Nicene Creed, No. 881, The United Methodist Hymnal). Swept up in the music, it is easy to forget that these great hymns teach great theology. Verses three and four complete the initial core story from Luke’s gospel.

Sing choirs of angels sing in exultation; O sing all ye citizens of heaven above! Glory to God, all glory in the highest; O come let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O Come let us adore him, Christ the Lord. See how the shepherds summoned to his cradle, Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze; We too will thither bend our joyful footsteps; O come let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O Come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

I think the most faithful thing we can do is come and adore; acknowledging that the baby Jesus is Christ the Lord (making the proper connection with Philippians 2:1-11). In doing so we too are joyful and triumphant.