O come all ye faithful

One of the joys of Christmas in church is when we sing the carol O come all ye faithful. Originally written in Latin by John Francis Wade and then translated into English by Frederick Oakeley it’s a carol that calls Christians together to worship Jesus and so we often sing it at the start of Christmas services. In fact, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing at our carol service on Sunday.

Why do we adore him?

The refrain “O come let us adore him” is surprising. Here we have a baby born in Bethlehem, in circumstances so modest that he is laid in a manger (an animal’s feeding trough). Why would we want to encourage people to come and “adore” or worship this baby of all babies?

We get hints in some of the words about why this baby is special. He is “born the king of angels” and he is “Christ, the Lord.” All of which point us to this baby, despite the circumstances of his birth, being God’s special rescuing king, who comes to save his people. But they point to a little more than that and we get that explicitly in the final line of the second verse. We adore Jesus because he is “very God, begotten not created.”

In the Bible it is wrong to worship anyone or anything apart from the one God. The first two commandments of the 10 Commandments make this very clear by requiring us to have no gods before God and to not make idols to worship (Exodus 20:3-4). And yet right at the start of the Jesus story we find him being worshiped by the wise men (Matthew 2:11). And that’s because this baby is exactly who the angel said he would be to Joseph:

“Look! The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.”

(Matthew 1:23 NET)

The call to worship Jesus is right, because Jesus is God with us.

But why is God with us?

Let me suggest two reasons that God is with us in Jesus.

First, we’ve already seen that he is “Christ, the Lord.” The rest of the gospels fill out what that means in many ways but primarily it points to this being a rescue mission. The king has come off his throne to rescue his people. As the angel says to Joseph:

21 She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

(Matthew 1:21 NET)

How Jesus does this is the Easter story! This baby is the Christ who rescues his people from their sins (all that they do wrong in rebellion against God). He does that by dying on a cross in their place to take their punishment (1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:18).

Second, we also sing about Jesus being “Word of the Father.” This is language picked up from Jesus’ disciple John who writes in his gospel:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. 2 The Word was with God in the beginning.

(John 1:1-2 NET)

Lots could be said about that, but it reminds us that Jesus comes as God with us, so we can know God. He reveals who God is and what God is like to us.

So Jesus come to enable us to know God both by revealing God to us and in removing the barrier of our sin so we can approach God and be friends with him.

How can I know God?

The carol is a call to the faithful to worship God. Perhaps that’s off-putting to some people who might think they could never be part of the faithful. But the Christmas story should remind us that anyone can come and worship the Lord Jesus. Wise men from the east or shepherds from the hillside – all were welcome then and that hasn’t changed.

If you want to know God this Christmas then you need to know Jesus and believe (have faith) in him (then you are faith-full you see!). To believe him is to believe he is God. To believe him is to believe you are someone who needs to saved from your sins. To believe him is to believe his death in your place for your forgiveness.

Then like wise men before you, you will come to adore Jesus and you to can rejoice in singing O come all ye faithful this Christmas.