“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant/ O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem.”
The text of this carol, Adeste Fideles, in Latin, was written by John Wade. John Reading composed the music which accompanies it. It was published in 1751.
In 1841, Rev. Frederick Oakley translated it into English, and thus we have O Come, All Ye Faithful.
I love this hymn. It is both joyful and triumphant and made to be belted out. When I was in sixth grade, during our elementary school’s Christmas assembly (all the kids having a sing-along together in the grade school gym, not the Christmas concert for the parents with all the kids performing for the community in the high school gym), our beloved and mercurial chorus director chose me out of the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades to “direct” everyone in this hymn which meant, in practice, that I stood up on the stage and waved the stick she handed me while everyone sang exactly as they would have, anyway. But it was a moment in which I was given importance and standing. It was a chance to show off. It elevated me, literally and socially, above my peers. Since it would be years yet until I discovered self-consciousness (some say I’m still looking), I loved it.
I would also say that I had an empty place in me that I tried to fill with popularity and self-importance. I even had some self-awareness of that in sixth grade, though I was probably six years from the first inkling that I could never fill it that way.
O come, all ye faithful. Joyful. Triumphant.
Also, come ye faithless. Miserable. Defeated.
A friend wrote me tonight to tell me of his suicide attempt in October. I didn’t know. Thank God it didn’t work.
Come, ye suicidal.
Come, ye depressed. Come, ye discouraged.
Come ye, who are so sick in your hearts and souls of our present politics that you fear you will start to vomit and never stop. Come.
Come, children who woke up one morning and were told by your parents to grab your most precious thing, one thing, a thing you could carry, and then you left your home and started walking. Come, child who is still walking, who has not seen home for months. Come, child who has no idea what is happening or where home is anymore. Come, ye. Come.
Come, soldier standing at the border, following orders you feel sick obeying, watching a dirty, screaming child run away from you. Come, O come.
Come, adult who has more money than time, who has a list of presents to buy and a list of parties to attend and can barely differentiate this Christmas from last and just wants this hectic, stressful season to pass. Come, ye. Come.
Come, pastor who has seen many of your core members, your biggest givers, leave the church this year, pastor who wonders if your church will exist next year. Come.
Come, college student dreading the return home to your volatile family, where the fighting never stops, where you fear you’ll regress into the child you know you aren’t anymore. Ye come.
Come, young adult who won’t see your family at Christmas for the first time ever and can feel the hole in your world already. Come.
Come to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him.
He is nothing impressive to behold at this moment, a baby. Just a baby. But in this place, this open barn, the God of the Universe tells you, “I love you. You are welcome here with me. I have come to be with you.”
Born the King of angels, yet not born in a palace. Born the King, yet offering to receive everyone who would come: dirty livestock keepers, foreign astrologers, old men and poor widows, a teenage mom and a merciful dad. You.
We talk about the humble beginning God chose in which to enter “our “world. Later, when Jesus had grown into an adult (when God grew up–yes, that’s what it means–don’t look at me, I didn’t come up with this crazy plan), he told his followers, “As much as you have loved the least of these, you have loved me.” Jesus began his human life as one of the least in order to identify with the least, and to make clear that no one is stopped at the door. No one fails the dress code, no one needs to be cool enough or thin enough, beautiful or charming enough, rich enough or poor enough. No one needs to know the secret handshake.
All are welcome in the stable. Because it’s just a stable. That’s why just a stable. The Prince of Peace is born in a stable so you know that this peace is for you, Jesus’ loves is for you, God’s Kingdom is open to you. That’s why Jesus came. That’s why Advent. For God to tell you, for you to know, you are welcome.
So yes, come all ye faithful, joyful, and triumphant.
And if you’re none of these things, come, too.
If you’re still trying to fill that space, still trying to make something meet that need, come.
Come and adore him.
Come and be loved.