Tuesday 2nd December – O Come, O Come

(This version of the carol – if carol is the right word?- is from ‘The Oh Hellos’ Christmas Album” – love love love)

When I think of hymns for Advent, this is the one that always pops into my head. Admittedly, the first reason for this is that I can vividly remember singing it on an Advent mass when I was little. The organ was playing rather slowly, and my voice was getting hoarser and hoarser, and I kept frantically counting the verses to see how many we had left…

The other reason, though, is that it very much touches the heart of Advent for me in its message, and in the tune. The solemn, stately music captures the seriousness of Advent; of waiting for something that is of paramount importance and full of awe.

The various ways that Jesus is addressed – ‘Emmanuel’, ‘Rod of Jesse’, ‘Day-Spring’ ‘Key of David’ – remind us that He is the long-awaited Messiah, revealed first to the Jewish people, who waited for Him for generations. He came to fulfil the prophecies of the Old Testament, and to make all new.

The hymn is a prayer – it calls upon Jesus to come to us, to save us from our mournful existence and the slavery of sin. Hence the serious-sounding tune; we do indeed ‘rejoice’ in our sincere hope that God will come to us, defeat all evil, and bring us home, but this is Advent; the time for preparing and waiting with bated breath. The time for joyous celebration and lively music will come with the coming of the Christ-Child!

Above all, I think, this hymn impresses upon those who sing it a sense of the deep awe surrounding the Incarnation and the coming of Jesus, the God-Man. This song does not bounce with jubilation; it marches steadily, carefully, scarcely able to contain the marvels of the truths it proclaims. The ‘Lord of Might’ who has worked marvels since the beginning of time, is coming to Earth in the form of a tiny child, so that He might bring us to His heavenly home, and make it ours. This hymn accepts with wonder the truth of our faith, taking none of it for granted, and so sincerely rejoicing in it.

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.

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