I have arrived to what probably is my most favorite Christmas hymn. I don’t know why, but there is something about “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” that truly speaks straight to my soul. At first, it was its music what attracted me. The haunting tune just gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. Then, once I really begun to pay attention to the words…I realized how richly biblical it is. One song compiles the story of redemption, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy and the hope of Christmas beautifully wrapped in a majestic melody...what’s not to like!?
Because of the richness of the lyrics I would like to take it slow with this hymn, and explore each stanza separately. Today, let’s look at the first one and dig into the Scriptural treasure that it uncovers.
Before we do that, though…I just wanted to point out something that’s puzzled me for years: is it Immanuel or Emmanuel? Well, I found out the following: Immanuel is the English translation of the Hebrew “עמּנוּ אל” (‛immānū’ēl) and Emmanuel is the English translation of the Greek “Ἐμμανουήλ” (Emmanouḗl) which is a translation of the Hebrew “עמּנוּ אל“. (https://immanuelsouthern.com/2012/12/04/immanuel-or-emmanuel-which-is-correct/)
So there you have it.
Now, back to our stanza for the day:
1 O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
The verses in this stanza take us back to Israel’s history of exile, particularly to Babylon, when Judah was carried away for its unfaithfulness (1 Chronicles 9:1). At that time, the temple was destroyed, the sons of Israel were taken, enslaved and submitted to the conquering culture, leaving little more than distant memories of the God who rescued them from Egypt. However, the hymn offers the great hope of the truth of the coming of the Lord.
The interesting thing is that, not so much unlike the ancient Israelites, we too are in “lonely exile here.” Sojourners in this world until He calls us home, or comes again. We know this is not our home. So, when we despair, we remember the command to rejoice, always, and in every situation (1 Thessalonians 5: 16) for He “shall come” to us one day.
May the Glorious Immanuel, the ever-present God, come to us soon, very soon!