A Message from Bishop Karen Oliveto

November 29, 2022
I am praying for the laity and clergy of the Mountain Sky Conference as we prepare for worship on Sunday.
While technically the season of Advent starts tomorrow, I started queuing up my iPod to my Christmas playlist two weeks ago. Christmas songs tend to capture as a photograph my memories, feelings, and experiences of the season. Perhaps that’s one reason why I love them so much. But if I were to dig deeper, it is also how these songs poignantly capture Christmas longing and hope which find fulfillment through the arrival of Christ.
But first, we wait.

Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means “coming”. Beginning four Sundays before Christmas, Advent is a time to prepare as we wait for the coming of Christ which we celebrate on Christmas.
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is perhaps the chart-topper for the Advent hit list. This familiar song is several centuries old. The chorus (“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel”) is an antiphon from the 8th century. The rest of the lyrics were written around the 12th century. They were translated into English in the mid-19th century:

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.
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.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
The word Emmanuel means “God with us”. This hymn is rooted in biblical passages of anticipation of a Savior (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). Each verse reflects various names used to refer to the Savior. Throughout the song, there is reference to the weight of oppression and human misery and the anticipated arrival of a Savior, a God who is with us, providing hope and liberation.
I need reassurance that God is indeed with us. In this world where hatred is proudly paraded as a prized commodity, when division is peddled across public squares and churches, when the specter of death is ever before us, I want to know that God has not abandoned us, that God is in the midst of it all, seeking to work through us to set things right. God even comes in the flesh through Jesus to show us how it is done.
Come! O Come!
When I sing this song during Advent, I, too, await with anticipation the birth of love and liberation in our world once again. I join my voice with those across time and space who have sung this song with the assurance that God loves us enough to become one of us.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!
With love,
Bishop Karen