This is the third part of an ongoing series about what we’re waiting for during Advent.
O come, thou Branch of Jesse’s tree, Free them from Satan’s tyranny That trust thy mighty power to save And give them victory over the grave. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel!
The dream of immortality has haunted humanity for as long as we can remember. From the alchemists’ vain search for the philosopher’s stone that could make the elixir of life to cryonicists’ search for a medical way to preserve and revive patients pronounced legally dead, we all want some way to keep on living, to hold ourselves back from the yawning chasm of death that awaits all life. Like so many of our desires, this is a malformed echo of a longing for something that is true. We cannot have eternal life by magic or by science; but we have been promised that eternal life will come by God’s work. Indeed, death has already been defeated. Christ was raised from the dead, and “death no longer has mastery over him” (Romans 6:9). Death has already lost the unflinching grip that it had over all life. Moreover, because Christ was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised. All the pain of loss, and injustice, and the destruction of the beautiful and the good shall pass away (Revelation 21:4). With Christ coming will come life, in abundance. In the words of John Donne, “One short sleep past, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more. Death, thou shalt die.”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 you, O Israel!
The phrase “the Key of David” comes from Revelation 3:7-8: “These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David, What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” It is Christ who is the guarantor of our future because it is he who has all power over heaven and earth. He will conquer all the powers that try to keep us away from him; and, in the end, there will be no more obstacles to be overcome. We must only hold on until he comes (Revelation 3:11), because when he does come he will make us steadfast pillars in his temple, constant dwellers in his city. Christ will open the way for us to come into his presence, and we will never be removed.