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.

Imagine living during the time this song was first penned in Latin, at least 800 years ago, in what is now known as the Dark Ages. Written so long ago that it’s actual origins are lost to time. Chanted by monks in France in an Abbey as part of the Advent celebration at a time where most people were illiterate, two thirds of the children died before the age of four, and the Black Death wiped out entire communities. When countries waged long wars over region and the Holy Land. Imagine the longing, the desperation, the hope of both the child that came and the Son of God who would appear.

O come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,

and order all things far and nigh;

to us the path of knowledge show,

and teach us in her ways to go

Imagine living in an era 800 years later where technology has become so complex, that any fact can be found almost instantly on the internet.  Where connecting with your friends and family across the world is as simple as pressing a button on a phone. Imagine living in a world where someone can end the world at the click of a button. Where medical technology has become so advanced, we can read a person’s DNA and cure a multitude of diseases, but the medical ethics haven’t kept up with what science can do.  In an age that for half of my life and the vast majority of my children’s lives we have been at war over religion and in that same Holy Land there is constantly under the shadow of war.

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,

and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;

disperse the gloomy clouds of night

and death’s dark shadow put to flight

Imagine living in a state where the sun barely rises in the winter. Where the cold keeps you indoors. When you are striving and striving in your work, at your home, and in your relationships, but despite your best efforts, the darkness of depression seeps in every year. Sometimes, just a little bit. Sometimes a lot. But it’s still Christmas, so you drive around see the lights and sing peppy carols. But this song, with it’s ancient words and it’s haunting melody acknowledges that everything is not all right in the world. It doesn’t pretend. It isn’t silly. But it acknowledges the hope of a future that burns brighter, even though right now, we long.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,

shall come to thee o Israel!

O come, O come, Emmanuel was translated by John Mason Neale and Henry Sloane Coffin from Latin Advent Vespers text.


One thought on “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

  1. I love this song. In the Catholic tradition we sing this every Sunday starting with the first Sunday in Advent. We do not sing any other Christmas hymns until the Christmas eve vigil mass on December 24th. I found this odd at first but now I like it. It’s keeps you in a state of expectation for something special and it makes sense. It would be like singing Happy Birthday to a baby before they are born. You are correct, “it is a song that acknowledges the hope of a future that burns brighter, even though right now, we long.” Enjoy your Christmas and these Holy Days.

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