O Come, All Ye Faithful

      Comments Off on O Come, All Ye Faithful

In the 1740s, it was neither safe nor popular to be Roman Catholic in England.

John Francis Wade was an English composer who met many of his exiled countrymen, persecuted Catholics, while working in France. Moved by their spiritual traditions, he penned the Latin song Adeste Fidelis (“Come, faithful ones”).

Ironically O Come, All Ye Faithful quickly became a favorite amongst English Protestants.

This song seems to break all the rules for proper hymns. Its lines are of unequal length and there isn’t a rhyme to be found. But no generation has yet thought those sufficient reasons not to sing it:

O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels;

(refrain) O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation, O sing all ye citizens of heaven above.
Glory to God, all glory in the highest.

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning.
Jesus, to Thee may all glory be given.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.

For a truly “high church” experience in the English tradition, enjoy this carol as sung during the Christmas Eve processional at London’s Westminster Abbey.

O Come, All Ye Faithful raises an important question: Who actually qualifies as a “faithful one”? Who is worthy to sing this song with hope and confidence?

When my two brothers and I came into the world, we each received a security blanket. My older brother Scott got a blue one. My younger brother Bruce got a green one. My security blanket was yellow.

Interestingly, when my brothers and I met with our parents some years ago to decide which keepsakes and pieces of furniture we would each receive as part of our inheritance, Mom gave us stickers that corresponded to those same colors. Whenever it was my turn to choose something in my parents’ house that would ultimately become mine, I put a yellow sticker on it.

As we grew older, our parents were fairly good-natured about our security blankets. They figured that one day we would either lose them or leave them behind.

Scott will turn 70 next year. I believe he still has a few surviving remnants of his. Bruce, unfortunately, left his blanket behind at a Florida motel during a family vacation when he was still very young.

And mine? I tried to hang on to it as long as I could. When I was 11 years old, I sneaked what had become my ratty yellow blanket into my backpack on my very first Boy Scout camping trip. You know, just in case of a major emotional emergency.

On the first night of the trip, a spring storm blew down every one of our tents. The campground was a sopping mess. Our Scoutmaster decided to send all the young kids home, including me. “We’ll bring all of your stuff to our Scout meeting next week,” he said. All of my stuff was there, all right. Except for my blanket.

“Excuse me,” I said to one of the older Scouts, trying not to let on that my entire inner personal security system was on the verge of disintegration. “Did you happen to find an old yellow blanket?”

“Oh, that old rag?” he said. “ We didn’t know what to do with it, so we threw it away.”

These are the kinds of things that can keep therapists in business for years.

Everything in this world that we are depending on for security will eventually slip right through our fingers. That might be your next paycheck. Or your next romance. Or that next big project you hope is finally going to prove that your life matters.

But ultimately we will discover that such things are just rags. We can never hang on to them.

Where can security be found? Only in the God who is hanging on to us.

Who, then, is a faithful one?

That would be anyone who bets his or her life that God will never lose his grip on them.