O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The third and final hymn we will look at and consider this Advent season is O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. The hymn itself is based on what are known as the seven “O Antiphons,” which may date back to the 5th Century. These prayers came to be special and well-loved of the Church, building up the hearts of the faithful as they moved toward the celebration of Christmas, teaching what the celebration of Christmas was all about. Each antiphon contains a title of Christ, a description of that title, and then a request, a prayer. We’d be here all week if we tried to go through them all. But consider the antiphon from which the hymn gets its title:
O Emmanuel, our king and our Lord,
the anointed for the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.
Emmanuel is a Hebrew word which means “God with us.” During the holidays we treasure having family and friends with us. But our Lord does even better: He make His dwelling place among us. God is with us—but not to destroy us as we deserve. God in flesh has come to save us. In mercy He has come to bring us back from our exile in sin, to bring us back into His family by the forgiveness of our sins.
Matthew the Evangelist doesn’t tell the beautiful story of our Lord’s birth the way Luke does; he bypasses the story of the birth in the stable. He doesn’t tell it in beautiful picture language the way John does. Matthew described it plainly, how our Lord Jesus was born. But this birth was anything but ordinary! A virgin conceives and bears a Son. And this Son is Emmanuel, God with us, the Word made flesh to dwell among His people. He has come to be one of us, to release us from our bondage to sin and death. You know the truth about yourself and our human race. There was nothing we could do to free ourselves. We needed to be saved, which means we needed someone to be our Savior. And this Child in the manger is that one. God comes in mercy and gentleness, to save us in our great need. He is Emmanuel, God with us. Our Creator is our Savior; our King is our Brother.
And so we rejoice. How can we not? And we also sing for Him to come again! We pray for Him to come and take us home, to where the rejoicing will never cease. For the day is coming when He will come, when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Our joy will be joined to the joy of the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. That’s what Advent’s all about. And that’s what our Savior is all about. And so we pray:
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!
In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.