This medieval hymn expresses the longing of those who hoped for the Messiah during the four hundred years between the last prophecy and Christ's arrival on earth. The somber tune captures the tone of those long centuries of waiting. Notice the titles of Jesus, quoted from prophecies about Him.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Chorus: 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.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
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.
O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
--translated from Latin to English by John M. Neale, 1851.
Between now and Christmas Day, I'm posting the hymns I quoted in Practicing Glory. This Bible study explores ten spiritual disciplines, what the scripture says about them, and how we can put them into practice. Think of the disciplines as a gift guide--gifts of worship you can offer to the Greatest Giver of all. I used "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" in the chapter on Confession. Confession means "agreeing with God" -- about Who He is and who I am.
Confession—agreeing with God, taking Him at His word even when we can't feel His presence—can help us hang on in the dark and chilly seasons of the spiritual life when we don't feel God's presence. One way to agree with God is to use His Name.
Listen closely to me; rescue me quickly.
Be a rock of refuge for me, a mountain fortress to save me.
For You are my rock and my fortress...(Psalm 31:2-3)
David asked the Lord to be his rock because He is his rock. Isn't the repetition fascinating? I love to do this with other names of God. “Lord, You are my strength; be my strength today” or “Lord, be my peace because You are peace.” This expresses my need and my faith.
Look back at the names of Jesus in the hymn. Which one is meaningful to you today?