O come, thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by they drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadow put to flight.
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.
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.
Hymn 56, Verses 6-8
For me, the hymn “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is the Advent hymn. In fact, it might be one of my favorite hymns from our hymnal. The minor key and simple melody is one that sticks in my head.
One of my favorite memories of this hymn is singing it with a group of pilgrims in the Church of St. Anne in Jerusalem. This church is located near the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a sick man (Jn. 5:2-9) The church is dedicated to Mary the mother of Jesus, and tradition holds that it marks her birthplace. The church is known for its acoustics, and I remember how our group’s voices echoed in the space as we sang the words “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
The antiphons that make up this hymn are often used at the beginning and end of the Magnificat when it is prayed during evening prayers leading up to Christmas. Using the antiphons in this way, allows the powerful words of justice of Mary’s song to expound on the names and attributes of God.
This year the final verses of Hymn 56 seem particularly appropriate– “death’s dark shadow put to flight” and “our sad divisions cease.” These lines sum up my prayers for most of 2020.
While I love the traditional version of the hymn, I have included below a contemporary version that someone shared on Facebook that I enjoyed.
This Sunday we will hear the story of the Annunciation, and listen to Mary’s song of justice. I hope you will join us for Evening Worship this Sunday at 6 pm on Zoom (bulletin).