Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel

For the third carol in my mini Christmas series, I’d like to look at “Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel.” To see the other carols in the series, find them here.

I really wish I had the time to do some historical background on these hymns. So far, I’m learning that most of my favorites are translated from other languages, making me wonder what gems I’m missing from the translation process. This one was originally in Latin.

We can take these beautiful, lyrical songs and look at their poetry. Each verse contains several poetic lines, often rhyming, with a set meter. This song is a good example of how words with the most emphasis get put at the end of the line and rhymed (“Emmanuel” and “Israel” being key examples). But I’m not quite sure how “high” and “mightily” are supposed to rhyme.

The full original contains many verses that I’d never heard before (perhaps because no one else can figure out how to rhyme “high” and “mightily.”) That particular verse highlight’s Emmanuel as the source of wisdom and knowledge. When we see him in the manger, we don’t exactly think about him as a source of infinite wisdom, but of course, He’s God and will reveal the wisest words ever spoken on this earth…just when he gets a little older. But even as a small child, he astounded those at the temple with his wisdom.

If you believe Wikipedia, the Catholic Church has an interesting practice with this song, singing different verses during each week of advent. I like that idea, as each verse expounds on a different aspect of Emmanuel.

The main reason I love this song is that it balances the different forms that Jesus takes, in a season that focuses too much on a baby, and not on the God/man. “Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel, / And ransom captive Israel” reflects more on the past coming of Jesus, when Israel was waiting for the long promised Messiah to arrive (sadly, many are still waiting). The song also focuses on the Jesus who died on the cross and rose again “That trust your mighty pow’r to save; Bring them in vict’ry through the grave.” And in the third verse, Emmanuel is the coming King we’re all waiting for, when Jesus comes back in full power and majesty, a very different form than a little baby: “Oh, come, oh, come, our Lord of might.”

Once again, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these songs. Is there a particular verse that’s meaningful to you? Have you heard good recorded versions of any of these carols that you’d like to share?

Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, oh, come, our Lord of might,
Who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times gave holy law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come O Rod of Jesse’s stem,
From ev’ry foe deliver them
That trust your mighty pow’r to save;
Bring them in vict’ry through the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, our Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by your drawing nigh,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

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