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O come, O come, Emmanuel

(As you read this, you may like to listen to this carol played on cellos by opening this in a separate browser:

1.O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
And Ransom Captive Israel
That Mourns in Lonely Exile Here
Until the Son of God Appear

2. 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

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

Reflections on one of the oldest Advent Hymns.

1. The words of this carol go back to the medieval Roman church of the 12th century. They were originally a series of short statements, antiphons, sung at the beginning of Advent, the season of the year beginning four Sundays before Christmas, when the church emphasises the anticipation of the first coming of Christ. Each line greets the Saviour with one of the titles ascribed to Him in Holy Scripture. The names, or definitions of Christ, in the opening line of each verse of This carol, reminds us that the birth of Jesus was anticipated because He was described in prophecies, written long before it happened, pronouncing that God would send the Messiah into the world. One who would save the people from their sin.

Emmanuel means God with us which is one of the outstanding realities about our God. He does not want to just been known or worshipped from afar, He desires a close and intimate relationship with those He created. Throughout the old Testament, as God developed His relationship with His chosen people, He constantly wanted them to be aware of His real presence. When they were released from Egypt and began their 40 year journey to the promised land, the column of smoke by day and fire by night was the assurance of that presence. The building of the tabernacle with its Holy interior was a constant reminder that God was dwelling among them. Later, in the Promised Land, the Temple was a permanent replacement for the mobile tabernacle, but these were all symbols until Jesus put aside His heavenly glory, God Himself, came to be with His people. "He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God." [John 1:10-12]

Praise God that He wants a relationship with us. Praise God that He came. Praise God that He’s coming again, and every eye shall see Him. [Revelation 1:7]

2. Thou Rod of Jesse
Jesse was the father of King David. God promised that the Messiah was to be a king come from the Line of David. In II Samuel 7:16 and Jeremiah 33:17 God promised that the line of David would be established for ever. However, the line of Jesse and David is broken, as recorded in Jeremiah 22:28-30 [and in 36:30] when Jehoiachin a king in David’s line comes under the judgment of God and is declared childless. That does not mean he will not have any children but will not have descendants on the throne of Judah in his lifetime. Therefore, because the ancestral tree of Jesse’s line has been cut down and only a stem or stump is left. It is out of that stump that a rod, or root as some translation have it, comes forth to develop into a new branch from David’s line through another son, Nathan, as recorded in Luke’s genealogy, [Luke3:31]. Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy despite the failings of men.

3. Thou Day-spring,
In Luke 1: 57-80 Zechariah the priest, having seen an angel who announced that he and his barren wife, Elizabeth, were to have a son, now, after being struck dumb because he doubted God, holds the baby in his arms and confirms that his name, as stated by the angel, was to be John. This act of faith releases him from his silence and he explodes with praises to God, and all he knows about the child whom God has given. This child is to be the forerunner, a prophet of the most High, who goes before Christ, [Luke 1:76] to prepare the way for Him. Zechariah filled with the Spirit of God goes on to tell us, “'The day-spring from on high hath visited us. To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of
peace.' - Luke 1,78, 79. This is one of the wonderful titles attributed to Jesus who said of Himself “I am the Light of the world,” [John 8:12]. In Malachi 4:2 He is called the Sun of Righteousness and in Revelation 22:5 we are told that he himself will be the only light needed in Heaven. Always light is opposed to Darkness and gives us clarity for direction. Like the rising sun it is welcome for its life-giving warmth. Jesus is the one who reveals the path out of the darkness of sin and into the glorious light of the Gospel that leads to everlasting light and life.

4.Thou Key of David
This phrase from Isaiah 22:22 refers to Eliakim, God’s servant. The possession of, or the giving of, keys always represent either ownership or the right of authority to enter and control entrance. In Revelation 3:7 we read, “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth” clearly points to Jesus. He is the one who has opened Heaven’s door so that all those who believe in Him can enter in. Before Jesus came, the world was lost and locked in the bondage sin. He, who now is the personification of the Key of David, has freed the prisoners and fulfilled all prophecy up to the time when He will come again to judge the world. Only then will the doors of opportunity, now wide open, be locked forever.

5. Thou Lord of might
Jesus is never actually referred to by this title, in the scriptures, but it is not wrong to attribute it to Him because when He says, “ I and the Father are one,” [John 10:30] He affirms His Deity as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God known as El Shaddai- or mighty God. He is the God without limits. When God’s ancient people were looking for their Messiah, they were looking for a mighty King who they thought would defeat all their foes and create an earthly Kingdom. Jesus came to defeat all the powers of Satan, sin and death and to establish the eternal Kingdom of God. When we face temptations, danger or fear we need to remember that the Lord of Might is our constant companion. He is our Good shepherd [John 10;11] and nothing can ever separate us from Him. [Romans 8: 38]. He is the one who “loved us and gave himself for us.” [Ephesians 5:2].


(From Dennis Scott)