O Come O Come Emmanuel O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, Thou Wisdom from on high, Who orderest all things mightily; To us the path of knowledge show, And teach us in her ways to go. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. 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 ov'r the grave. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here; Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death's dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, Thou Key of David, come, And open wide our heav'nly home; Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. Words: various, combined by unknown author approx 12th Century, Translated by John Mason Neale, 1851. This haunting advent hymn is the first one that springs to my mind as we start the Advent season today. Over the next few weeks, as we meditate and prepare for the great celebration of our Savior's birth at Christmas, we must first stop and think about the world's darkness and our need of that salvation. In our sin, we are captive and exiled from the Lord. We need wisdom and understanding to know where to go in our lives. We need to be rescued from Satan and sin's tyranny over us. We need light to disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death's dark shadows. We need a path away from misery and towards God. Amid that darkness, misery, gloom, confusion, and captivity, Jesus came, and He has brought us light, gladness, joy, wisdom, and freedom. Do you need to be freed from the miseries of this world, from the darkness of sin, from eternal death? Come to Jesus this Advent season. He came so that you may have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).
A devotional I have been reading this year for Advent includes the O antiphons, the prayers of the Christian church, which they prayed during the Advent season for centuries. Traditionally, they were sung each night from December 17 through December 23 in preparation for Christmas: O Sapientia [O Wisdom], O Adonai [O Lord], O Radix Jesse [O Root of Jesse], O Clavis David [O Key of David], O Oriens [O Dayspring], O Rex Gentium [O King of the Nations], and O Emmanuel. A fuller explanation and translations can be found here.
One of my favorite hymns during this season is O Come, O Come Emmanuel. With it’s haunting melody and beautiful words, it rings with the longing and expectation of the world for the coming of the Savior. Each year I sing it, thrilling that Jesus has come, that He did not leave us in our sin and misery but came to save us from ourselves and our rebellion against Himself. I rejoice that He will come a second time in glory and majesty. The hymn comes from those antiphons. Each one tells us something about Christ and then says “come”.
Centuries before Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote:
Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. 2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. 3 The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. – Isaiah 60:1-3
His prophecy was fulfilled in Christ, who said in John 8:12: I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.
O Light of the World, You whose glory shines brighter than the sun, come. Lord Jesus, come to us in the darkness of sin, in the darkness of the long December nights, in the darkness of our selfishness and loneliness and bitterness. Come and heal us. Come and make us like You. Come and make us shine as lights in the darkness around us. Come…
May your Christmas be full of the One who came to save us and may your New Year be full of His mercy, grace, and peace. .
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”
Says your God.
“Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
That her warfare is ended,
That her iniquity is pardoned;
For she has received from the Lord’s hand
Double for all her sins.”
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God. – Isaiah 40:1-3
Advent is a time for preparation, a time to reflect on the meaning of the child in the manger, a time to stop and think about how the God of the Universe gave up His glory for a time and came down to Earth. I hope to spend a few moments each day this December, meditating on Christ’s love for us at Christmas and preparing my heart and my spirit to receive all of the gifts He has to share with those of us who are His children.
Instead of merely joining the frenzy of shopping and baking and wrapping and parties, why don’t you take a minute to think about the glorious truth that Jesus, the Son of God, came down from Heaven to Earth to be our Emmanuel, God with us, to be the best possible gift God had to give us—Himself.