And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
I was stuck in the mud up to the axles of my Dad’s 1963 Chrysler Newport. I had foolishly driven onto an unpaved field to turn around. And what looked to me like dry dirt was a bog of mud. I’m sure I nearly broke the transmission of the car as I rocked back and forth, spinning the tires, determined to get out of the mess I had gotten myself into.
On another occasion I had driven home from a date, and going too fast over a hill, the car had gone airborne! I think I actually did break a motor mount on the car that night. It’s a wonder the car survived my early years of driving.
I was oblivious on the one hand of the trouble I was causing, and deeply distressed on the other hand and bent on getting out of the trouble I had gotten in. In both cases I was reckless and irresponsible. Thank God that I didn’t cause even more damage to our family sedan!
When the road is straight, and the ride is smooth, we take little thought for our need for safe travel and dependable transportation. And so much of life is like that for us today. When things are going well, we easily lose sight of our need for God’s provision, protection, and rescue. His grace is a nice thing that we too easily take for granted.
But we are captive. We are captive to sin, death, sickness, discouragement, and troubles of others’ and our own making. We need a redeemer. We need Jesus. For apart from him, we are dead in tresspasses and sins. We are enemies of God. We are spiritually blind to our plight. And sadly these conditions assault us daily. Relentlessly. Cruelly.
But God came and dwelt with us – Emmanuel – and made us alive in Christ. As Paul puts it in Titus 3:3-7:
We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
We are broken people, living in a broken world, with broken and false remedies to our own rescue. When we realize that, we are ever more ready to sing, “O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel!”
Emmanuel has come. He has ransomed us. So now we rejoice for Emmanuel has come to us. We wait now for his final appearing and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
O come, O come, Emmanuel And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel
O come, O come, Thou Lord of might Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law In cloud, and majesty and awe
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
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night And death’s dark shadows put to flight
O come, Thou Key of David, come And open wide our heavenly home
Make safe the way that leads on high And close the path to misery
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high And order all things, far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show And cause us in her ways to go
O come, desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease And be Thyself our King of peace