O COME, O COME, EMMANUEL
Latin hymn from 12th century
English translation by John M. Neale, 1818–1866
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end. (Luke 1:32, 33)
The preparation for the celebration of our Lord’s birth begins four Sundays before Christmas Day. This begins the period known as the Advent season. Advent centers on the Old Testament prophecies concerning a coming Messiah and His establishment of an earthly kingdom. The Messiah’s coming was prophesied 600 years before His birth. At the time the Jewish people were living in captivity in Babylon. For centuries thereafter faithful Jews earnestly anticipated the Deliverer-Messiah with great longing and expectation, echoing the prayer that He would “ransom captive Israel.” And finally the long awaited heavenly announcement came—“Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:11).
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” was originally used in the medieval church liturgy as a series of antiphons—short musical statements that were sung for the week of vesper services just before Christmas Eve. Each of these antiphons greets the anticipated Messiah with one of the titles ascribed Him throughout the Old Testament: Wisdom, Emmanuel, The Lord of Might, The Rod of Jesse, Day Spring, and The Key of David.
The haunting modal melody for the verses is also of ancient origin. It is based on one of the earliest forms of sacred music known—the Chant or Plain Song.
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
O come, O come, Thou Lord of might who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height, in ancient times didst give the law in cloud and majesty and awe.
O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny; from depths of hell Thy people save and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here; O drive away the shades of night and pierce the clouds and bring us light.
O come, Thou Key of David, come and open wide our heav’nly home where all Thy saints with Thee shall dwell—O come, O come, Emmanuel!
Refrain: Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
For Today: Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; 11:1; 22:22; Matthew 1:22, 23; Luke 1:78, 79; Galatians 4:4, 5
Christ came not only to be the Emmanuel—“God with us”—but even in a more personal way, God in us. Carry this truth throughout the Advent Season.