Today, I keep thinking about these Christmas lyrics. (I know I know. I have a lot to say about this song. Bear with me.)
O Come O come Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
And how they align with this verse.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.
I keep thinking about captivity.
Tonight I'm reflecting on whether or not I understand my own captivity. Because if I don't have a good grasp on how sin has enslaved me in the past, and how it seeks to continually put me in chains, then Christmas means little. If I am not a hostage, then why would I need ransoming by this Emmanuel?
You know who is likely to hear the good news of Jesus with a willing heart?
Prisoners. Refugees. Slaves.
Perhaps because he or she is deeply acquainted with captivity in a way you and I may never be.
The leap from understanding one's physical imprisonment to one's spiritual imprisonment is much shorter for someone who lives behind bars. So much fruit comes from those ministries extending to people in prison. Ever thought about why?
I wasn't alive during the days when our country publicly supported the human slave trade. But I've learned since then about the wave of faith in the Lord which swept through their ranks and produced a wealth of hymns or spirituals about freedom in Jesus. It's not a coincidence. Those who have forfeited or are denied basic human liberty seem rather quick to cling to the spiritual freedom Jesus offers us.
They seem to be more aware of their need for freedom. They have an acute thirst for grace.
And I just wonder what I'm missing. I wonder how deceived I can be, living in a free country, and taking those freedoms for granted. Am I totally unaware of own spiritual captivity? Do I sometimes forget that I need Jesus at all? I look around my community and I'm sure that's part of the problem. Somehow, as we bask in the personal freedoms offered by our country, we've forgotten our much more desperate need for spiritual freedom. Without Jesus, we are nothing more than captives, mourning and lonely.
For the sake of remembrance, and giving Him the glory, I wanted to share a couple ways I've experienced freedom in my own life.
I used to be held captive by fear.
I used to be held captive by needing the approval of others.
I used to be held captive by shame.
I used to be held captive by busyness and overcommitment.
I used to be held captive by perfectionism.
I used to be held captive by the lie that I wasn't enough.
And these chapters are not entirely over. I've experienced a degree of victory over these things, but the enemy seeks to get me right back where I started with his lies that stand in the face of the truth about my freedom. I also know I have many more chains that need breaking. I was taken aback in Bible Study this week as the Holy Spirit churned up some new ones. God in His grace allows me blind spots for a time, until He knows I'm able to process them. And I'm okay with that (because I've found victory from needing to be perfect, remember?).
I want to face my captivity, because only then do I understand my need for Christmas. What is an area you've been held captive by in the past? (I'm going to turn on the anonymous commenting, in case you want to use that for something more personal). Or what is an area in which you've experienced freedom? If you need prayer for a current area of struggle, please mention that too. You are not alone. It's good, during Christmas, to contemplate these things. Otherwise, the season threatens to pass us by without bringing anything new but a handful of gifts we didn't even need.
Christmas brought Jesus, and Jesus brought grace enough to free me. I don't ever want to forget how I was ransomed. I was a captive, bought with a price - the life of Jesus Himself in the place of mine - and there has been nothing I've ever needed more.