Thoughts on the beginning of Advent; “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 Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny.

From depths of Hell Thy people save, and give them victory o’er the grave

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

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.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

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.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might, who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,

 In ancient times did’st give the Law, in cloud, and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

My favorite song of this season, Advent, and one I am full ready to proclaim this this year. I need the awareness of Emmanuel (“God with us”) now, as proclaimed in the third verse, to

“Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death dark shadows put to flight.”

Just thinking on this song, and on this season, has compelled me to joy from the midst of gloom. One of the ways it does that it reminds me that, even though the work of God is about me (how could any description of love not be in part about the beloved?), it is not, in a more significant sense, about ME.  The ransom, deliverance, restoration, and final union with God (not as a drop is united with the ocean, but as a bride is united with her bridegroom) is about Him, what He has intended from the beginning, and what He has been working to bring to pass. It will be done.

He may, or may not, remove my petty unhappinesses and difficulties in the meantime (and I believe He does care about such things!), but my heart tells me that it is of no matter. In the brilliant light of the overwhelming Good He is bringing to pass, the slight shadow of my difficulties in this life are swallowed and consumed. I of course must still deal with them, but they have no emotional importance. How can they compete?  And yet, I believe that they are still important to God; if it were not so, why would Jesus have told us to pray for our daily bread?

I am reminded of a scene in an old movie, The Longest Day, about the Allied forces’ invasion of Normandy during World War 2. At the start of the invasion, there was a tremendous naval  bombardment of the French coastline, with the intention of weakening as much as possible such German defense as may have been there. The scene that affects me so is of a Frenchman, whose home is near the top of the bluffs overlooking the beach. As the shells are falling near, and ultimately on, his home, he is dancing in joy. His vision is not on his house, but on the deliverance of his homeland, and of his people: That longed-for deliverance has indeed come near, it is breaking out in front of him. The state of his house, or even his own safety, is of very little concern by comparison. He is filled with joy.

In the same manner, this song, generally understood as from the 12th century, although parts of it may be considerably older, reminds me of the deliverance (and much, much more!) that God has been moving towards through all history, which was incorporated in his intent in the creation of all things, and which He most certainly will bring to pass. Alleluia!



I love this version, done by the Swingle Singers, because I hear in it a quality I think often missed, which I greatly value. That quality is joyful expectation and anticipation, in the midst of painful longing. It is a vision for the piece I caught during my early days at Church of the Redeemer; and is part of the many things I learned about, and through, music there. I don’t remember who showed it to me, or even if it was consciously articulated, but it was definitely there. That image is of a small, “Schnauzer – type” dog, sitting on its haunches at the door waiting for its master to appear. I remember seeing such a dog sitting or standing quietly, expectantly, but with such a high pitch of anticipation that it can barely remain still. It is all aquiver with excitement and longing.

Ideally, this song conveys that mix of stillness and ecstatic anticipation, of deep longing, and deferred joy, so confidently expected that the joy becomes present. Back in Junior-High science, we would have called that kind of joy Potential energy, with the level raised so high that all it needs is the trigger, the release, to pour out into Kinetic energy. I think this recording gets it.

From deep within the Hebrew Scriptures, through the events of Jesus’ incarnation, and all through the letters to early churches, we see this longing and expectancy. Ultimately, in the last words of the last chapter of The Revelation” it can scarcely be contained:

“The Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let the one who hears say, Come. And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. ….’

‘…He who testifies to these things says, Surely I am coming soon.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”



I regret that for so many, we have lost the idea of “Advent” at all.

Our “cultural calendar” celebrates Christmas before the event, and for so long that by the time Christmas is here, we are glad to see it go.

The older way is to observe the season of Advent: looking forward to the coming of Christ,  in Bethlehem, in our lives today, and at the last day; contemplating what that means for us, and preparing

“in our  hearts a home where  such a noble guest may come,”

knowing, that though a palace would be too little, He was content with a stable, and with a heart such as mine.

By the time Christmas gets here, we are still tired, but we are tired of anticipating! And we are glad to see the day, and to celebrate it, consider it, pray through it for all “the 12 days of Christmas” until the day when we mark Jesus’ being made manifest to the world (Epiphany).


1 Comment

Filed under ALL, Bible, Christianity, Church, Music, Uncategorized

One response to “Thoughts on the beginning of Advent; “O Come O Come Emmanuel!”

  1. Liked the rendition of Come O Come, Emanuel. Especially like the graphics. Thanks.

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