Reflection on a Hymn

On Sunday we did the song “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” Some in the band said something about it being a ‘downer’, not to mention the fact of it being in a minor key. For some reason my mind has been reflecting on this hymn ever since. I feel that because we live in culture that is one of plenty, it is easy for us to forfeit our cries of Emmanuel coming and rescuing us for a Advent full of Christmas shopping, catchy songs about Santa, fireplaces and snow.

For many, the pleasures of now outweight the promise of heaven (or should I say, rescue). It is easy to forget in the land of plenty that we are, after all, in exile awaiting our savior to come. Yes, he has come and now we are in the time of “the now and not yet.” He calls-invites us to labor for His kingdom and His purposes. The more we embrace this call-invitation the more we discover a longing in our hearts. When we understand that God’s kingdom is about ‘putting things back to rights’ (N. T. Wright) the glitter of earth ceases to fulfill us. Instead we discover a deep yearning within us. A yearning for the kingdom of God to come to full consemation.

It is to this yearning that the hymn speaks. It is a deep call to those who long to see God’s kingdom fulfilled. It speaks to those who have discovered that nothing this world offers can fix the deep emptiness in one’s soul. It speaks to those who have taken up their cross, left the world behind, and look forward and work for God’s kingdom. For those phrases such as “morns in lonely exile here” is more than a catch phrase. It is the cry of their souls. They understand what it means to wait for that final Avent.


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.

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 vict’ry o’er the grave.

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here;
O drive away the shades of night and pierce the clouds and bring us light.

O come, Thou Key of David, come and open wide our heav’nly home
Where all Thy saints with Thee shall dwell — O come, O come, Emmanuel!

Chorus: Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

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