Hymn Reflection: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

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O come O come

The halls are decked, the stockings hung and the tree is lit. We start to play Christmas music or hear it as we shop for gifts. As we reflect on this season, I encourage you to walk through well-known advent and Christmas hymns with me. To grow deeper into our relationship with Christ, the newborn Son, we will dig deeper into the text.

Advent is the season in the Church year before Christmas. It is this time of waiting. Elizabeth Hunnicutt just came out with a new album entitled The Arrival. Her first song is Waiting. Read these beautiful lyrics with me:

“Waiting for You, from the weight of the silence, we who are weary and worn. From that darkness overwhelming, we heard rumors of dawn… In the visions of the prophets told a tide about to change. All our dreams were anticipating the deliverance from our chains. Waiting, we who are waiting, waiting for you.”

This song encapsulates the longing and waiting in the advent season. This in between, this already but not yet. One of the more well known of the Advent hymns is O come O come Emanuel. 

This hymn text was written as a poem in the 8th century. The poem was an acrostic, translating to “I will be with you tomorrow”. The sense of urgent awaiting that fits with the season.

Each verse of the hymn starts with “come”. Often the verses are sung on different days leading up to Christmas.

Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”. Emanuel, a Hebrew word meaning “God with us”. This name was prophesied many years before Jesus’ birth. When we sing it becomes an invitation to God to arrive here now, as well as a prophecy of His return.

In the refrain comes a call of praise. We sing Rejoice! Because God will be with us.

Reflect on the full text while listening along to a beautiful version by BYU Vocal Point:

1 O come, O come, Immanuel, (Isaiah 7:14, Mt 1:23)
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Refrain:

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

2 O come, O Wisdom from on high, (Exodus 19:16)
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go. Refrain

3 O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

4 O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem, (Isaiah 11:1)
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave. Refrain

5 O come, O Key of David, come (Isaiah 22:22)
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death’s abode. Refrain

6 O come, O Bright and Morning Star, (Malachi 4:2, Luke 1:78-79)
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light. Refrain

7 O come, O King of nations, bind (Isaiah 9:6)
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace. Refrain

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