Another one of my favourite songs to sing at Christmas is the well-known “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” The author of it is unknown… the words were combined from various antiphons by an unknown author, possibly in the 12th Century. It was translated from Latin to English by John M. Neale in 1851. Neale’s original translation began, “Draw nigh, draw nigh, Emmanuel.”
The lyrics echo a number of prophetic themes. The title comes from the well known Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The “Rod of Jesse” refers to Isaiah 11:1: “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse.” “Day-Spring” comes from Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, in Luke 1:78: “The dayspring from on high has visited us.” “Thou Key of David” is in Isaiah 22:22: “The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder,” which in turn refers to Isaiah 9:6 “The government shall be upon His shoulder.”
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
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.