O Emmanuel – advent antiphon: a reflection

O come o come emmanuel
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O Emmanuel, our King and our lawgiver,

the hope of the nations and their Saviour:

Come and save us, O Lord our God.

cf Isaiah 7.14

Listen to this antiphon:

So we’ve reached day 7, the final antiphon: O Emmanuel. Emmanuel, of course, means ‘God with us’. There is no greater promise than that God will be with us in our darkness and suffering and we see this fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Think of the circumstances into which Jesus is born: out of wedlock,  nowhere to call ‘home’, a refugee (shortly after the birth there is the flight into Egypt), an occupied country, poor. Then, throughout his life Jesus aligns himself with those on the outside, the Other, until he himself is cursed by his own people and executed for a crime he didn’t commit. God with us, with us in the darkness, with us in the trials of life. And what does Jesus say at the end of Matthew’s gospel, his very last words to his disciples?

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

– Matthew 28:20

This promise continues for us. Love came down at Christmas and stayed.

O come o come emmanuel

I hope now, whenever you sing the carol ‘O come, o come Emmanuel’ you will remember these 7 antiphons, these 7 signs pointing to something of the character of God.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Here’s one of my favourite versions of this carol:

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 Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

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.

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.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

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