Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Comment on a Hymn

'O Come, O Come, Emmanuel'

The first stanza sets the tone of the hymn. It's about our mourning in exile. We are far from the comforting presence of God. The somber tone of the music helps to communicate this tone. It helps us to feel the mourning. We long to enjoy pleasant strolls in the Garden with God.

The refrain is a response to that sense of mourning. It is a call to rejoice. Advent! Jesus is coming. But note that the music is not in an exultant tone like 'Joy to the World'. It's still in a minor key. There is to be rejoicing, but it is not a rejoicing that ignores the difficult reality that we live in.

Each succeeding stanza is a prayer offered up to Jesus while we wait, asking Him to come and rescue us from our exile here. This is sung in the assurance that that is exactly what He will do.

This is one of the great hymns for the Church of the ages to sing whether longing for Jesus' first Advent or His second.

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, O come, thou Lord of might,
Who to thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

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.

O come, thou Dayspring from on high
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

O come, thou 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.