O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

  • Dec. 1, 2015
  • #8762

The season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ with candle lighting, Bible reading and hymns of faith.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

I’m Joni Eareckson Tada and with Christmas almost upon us this is a perfect hymn for the season of Advent!

O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel
Who mourns in lonely exile here until the son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, shall come to thee,
Shall come to thee, O Israel*

You know, this haunting melody is always the first hymn sung at the beginning of Advent. It’s a little mournful, a little sad, a little plaintive, it expresses longing and wishing and that’s what the beginning of Advent is all about. You see, the ancient Christian church celebrated Advent as a kind of a fresh start, a time to examine your heart, be aware of your sin, and recognize: Oh my goodness, my heart is full of deceit, it is full of rebellion—I really need the Savior and I'm so glad that He is coming. Now, I don’t know if your church lights candles on an Advent wreath, but let me explain what it’s all about. Back in the 1500’s, the Advent wreath was made of evergreens with four candles around it and one in the center. One candle is lit on each succeeding Sunday during Advent, with the fifth candle in the center always lit on Christmas Eve. The candles around the wreath are usually purple. (For years that has traditionally been the main Advent color symbolizing repentance and fasting. Plus it also is a color that looks forward to the coming of Christ as King of Kings – you know how purple is always associated with royalty). And in the middle of the wreath is a white candle that represents the arrival of Jesus, sinless and pure.

Now the Advent readings are what are most interesting. The first Sunday in Advent is all about hope; you need rescuing and your God will come; He will come and deliver you. In fact, it’s why this Christmas carol I just sang was written: “O come, O come Immanuel and ransom captive Israel.” When the second candle is lit, the readings are about our sin and our need of a Savior. (I mean, come on, you really can’t celebrate the birth of Jesus without knowing that you need Him, right?). Then on the third Sunday in Advent the theme is joy: “Come thou long expected Jesus born to set thy people free.” Then there’s the fourth Sunday in Advent with more hymns and readings and, of course, lighting the Christ candle on Christmas Eve. And you can imagine what the Advent hymn is for that day: “Joy to the world the Lord is come!”

Now, I realize not many churches follow the ancient Christian church calendar nowadays (I was raised in the Reformed Episcopal Church and we did), so I grew up with these things and to me, Advent is such a wonderful season of great Bible readings and hymns of the faith. And I’d like to send you some of those hymns today. Just go to my radio page at joniandfriends.org and ask for my CD “Christmas Carols for a Kid’s Heart” – it’s a collection of great Christmas carols you can teach your children or grandchildren. You know, it’s early in December and now is the time to stop and ponder and think about your need of a Savior.

* “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Words by unknown. Translated by John M. Neale. Music by Veni Emmanuel. Public Domain.

Photo: Cumcdebary.com

© Joni and Friends


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