Emmanuel

* * * *
Promise

In pre-creation’s timeless span,
Before the human race began;
Before there was a day or night,
Before God said, “Let there be light;”
Before the firmament was formed,
Before the glacial earth was warmed;
Before the sun had soared and flamed,
Before the beasts of earth were named;
Before God flung the stars in space,
Before God hung the moon in place;
Before the mountains and the seas,
Before the rivers and the trees;
Before God moulded man from sod,
Before man breathed the breath of God;
Before the light from dark was riven,
Before God had created heaven;
Before God’s chosen time of rest,
Before the seventh day was blessed;
Ere God’s creation of the world,
Ere Eden’s glories were unfurled;
With angels gathered at his side,
God promised for all time and tide:
        “Emmanuel shall come!”

* * * * *
Prophecy

As primal light to earth was hurled,
God’s promise pealed across the world:
        “Emmanuel shall come!”
In brightest rays of lucent noon,
Or darkest days of midnight gloom:
        “Emmanuel shall come!”
From valleys low and mountains high,
The Hebrew prophets raised their cry:
        “Emmanuel shall come!”
“A Child is born! A Son is given!”
The Prince of peace! The Lord from heaven!”
        “Emmanuel shall come!”
Prophetic voices waned and died,
A dauntless remnant testified:
        “Emmanuel shall come!”
When faith and trust and hope were maimed,
Four-hundred silent years proclaimed:
        “Emmanuel shall come!”

* * *
Birth

The wisemen journeyed from afar
To learn the meaning of the star:
        “Emmanuel shall come!”
As shepherds waited for the morn,
God’s angel said, “The Christ is born!”
        “Emmanuel shall come!”
That holy night in Bethlehem,
A cattle manger sheltered him:
        “Emmanuel shall come!”
This night our prayer ascends above:
May Christ find shelter in our love.”
        “Emmanuel shall come!”

* * *
Life

For thirty lonely years and three,
From manger to maturity,
        Christ loved God’s weak and poor.
“Take up thy cross and follow me,
God’s love and truth will set you free,”
        He promised o’er and o’er.
Rebellion, scorn and anger cried
Against him as he toiled and tried
        To point men to the sky.
Then malice, envy, hate and strife
Demanded forfeit of his life:
        “Emmanuel must die!”

* * *
Death

Beneath a blue Judean sky,
They raised a blood-red cross on high,
        And deeply pierced his side.
They mocked and jeered and spat and beat,
And drove nails through his hands and feet,
        And watched him as he died.
And as they watched, the sun grew dim,
And shadows gathered over him,
        And darkness touched his brow.
And from the dark his cry broke through:
“Forgive! They know not what they do”
        It is all finished now!”
With broken heart and bleeding side
The savior bowed his head and died
        While earth and heaven wept.
His love had drunk the bitter cup,
And split the rocks, and opened up
        The graves of those who slept.

* * *
Burial

Depressed by sorrow, grief and loss,
They took his body from the cross
        And laid it in a tomb.
Through hopeless day, bereft of light,
Their faith succumbed to endless night
        Of dark despairing gloom.

* * * * * *
Resurrection

On Sunday morn, when night was gone,
Their sorrow turned into a song,
        Dispelling grief and pain.
In God’s divinely chosen hour,
Christ split the grave with awesome power,
        He lives! He lives again!
For forty days of earthly peace,
Christ bade believers’ anguish cease,
        Then whispered soft and low:
“My work for God on earth is done.
My father beckons me to come.
        He calls, and I must go.”

* * * * *
Ascension

Upon a shining mountain crest
He gathered those who loved him best,
        Oh, glad triumphant strain!
And rising from Mount Olive’s sod,
To his eternal place with God,
        He’s home! He’s home again!

* * *
Reign

He’s now above with angelband,
Enthroned in love at God’s right hand
        Beside the crystal sea.
For all mankind the savior pleads,
For you and me he intercedes,
        ‘Til time no more shall be.

* * *
Return

Some shining hour in God’s own time,
The trump will sound, the bells will chime,
        We know not where or when.
Some happy morn, some golden day,
The Christ who came and went away
        Shall come to earth again!
The one born in a cattle stall,
The one condemned in Pilate’s hall,
        “Is coming back again!”
The one who loved and pled with men,
The one who suffered for our sin,
        “Is coming back again!”
The one Jehovah called, “My son,”
The one who prayed, “Thy will be done,”
        “Is coming back again!”
The one they cursed with foulest breath,
The one they hated unto death,
        “Is coming back again!”
The one who suffered countless loss,
The one they hanged upon a cross,
        “Is coming back again!”
The one who died on Calvary,
The one who from the grave broke free,
        “Is coming back again!”
The one ascended up above,
The one who waits for us in love,
        “Is coming back again!”

* * *
Prayer

Oh, Alpha and Omega, Friend,
Oh, First and Last, Beginning, End,
Oh, Sheltering Rock in burning land,
Oh, Captain of God’s ransomed band,
Oh, Shiloh, Sceptre, Shepherd, Light,
Oh, Morning Star so pure and bright,
Oh, Root and Stem and Branch and Horn,
Oh, Master, Servant lowly born.
Oh, Prophet, Priest, and King and Guide,
Oh, Bridegroom, Bread of Life, abide.
Oh, Balm of Gilead so nigh,
Oh, Prince and Dayspring from on high.
Oh, Rose of Sharon, Lily, Vine,
Oh, Resurrection, Truth and Sign.
Oh, Lamb so Meek and Lion strong,
Oh, Author of Salvation song.
Oh, Son of God and Son of Man,
Oh, Christ of God’s eternal plan.
Oh, Savior, Sun, and Way and Door,
Oh, Hidingplace forevermore.
        Oh come, Lord Jesus, come!

 

Hal Upchurch, c. 1990