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Welcome to this great Advent journey! I’m so glad you’re joining me and hundreds of thousands of others in prayer and reflection during this holy season.

Every Advent, Christians sing a haunting song whose words go back to the ninth century. But I wonder how carefully we listen to the lyrics:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appears.

In the ancient world, people were tremendously afraid of being kidnapped and held for ransom. Alone, far from home, malnourished, often tortured, hostages could only hope against hope that their deliverance might come. This is the situation evoked by that well-known song: Israel, the people of God, are held for ransom in their lonely exile, and they cry out for their Savior, the Son of God.

To be caught in the nexus of sin is to know the truth and to feel the texture of this imprisonment. We mourn over the sins and moral failures of our leaders; we feel trapped by our own falls into dysfunction and addiction; we feel overwhelmed by the dark powers of the world.

But the good news of Christianity is that Emmanuel (God with us) has indeed appeared, and he has gone right to the bottom of sin in order to defeat it. In his full humanity, Jesus entered into that complex web of sin, and in his full divinity, he did something about it.

May we spend these holy days together in prayer, penance, and hope, fixing our eyes on the appearance of Christ our Savior and longing for his deliverance.


Bishop Robert Barron

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