O COME, O COME EMMANUEL                                                    written in 1100s

The Story

This Christmas hymn is ancient (coming from the 12th century), not only in its text, but also in its music. While the tune used today was not used until the 1800s, it is based on plainsong… the type of music used in church during medieval times. The lack of strict rhythmic measures gives the tune a free-flowing style. You can imagine each line being sung and held… so the sound would echo throughout a stone cathedral; then, just before the sound of that line would die, the next line would begin.

The text developed without the chorus as a series of liturgical phrases used during Advent. Each verse concentrates on a different biblical name for Christ: Jesus is Emmanuel – “God with us”, “Wisdom from on high”, “Desire of nations”, and “Dayspring”.

The Latin text was first documented in Germany in 1710. It has been translated and re-translated throughout the centuries.

Verses 1 & 4 were translated into English by John Mason Neale (1818-1866).

Verses 2 & 3 were translated into English by Henry S. Coffin (1877-1954).

Though the text version we sing was not written until 1861.

The Song

Read this Christmas hymn, and – today – focus on Jesus, the Reason for the Season!

The 1710 Version —

Draw nigh, draw nigh, Emmanuel… and ransom captive Israel…
that mourns in lonely exile here… until the Son of God appear;
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel… shall be born for thee, O Israel!

Draw nigh, O Jesse’s Rod, draw nigh… to free us from the enemy;
from Hell’s infernal pit to save… and give us victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel… shall be born, for thee, O Israel!

Draw nigh, Thou Orient, Who shalt cheer… and comfort by Thine Advent here,
and banish far the brooding gloom… of sinful night and endless doom.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel… shall be born for thee, O Israel!

Draw nigh, draw nigh, O David’s Key… the Heavenly Gate will open to Thee ;
make safe the way that leads on high… and close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel… shall be born for thee, O Israel!

Draw nigh, draw nigh, O Lord of Might… Who to Thy tribes from Sinai’s height
in ancient time didst give the Law… in cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel… shall be born for thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high… and order all things, far and nigh;
to us the path of knowledge show… and cause us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel… shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind… all peoples in one heart and mind;
bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;… fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel… shall come to thee, O Israel.

The 1861 Version —

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.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free… Thine own from Satan’s tyranny ;
from depths of hell Thy people save… and give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel… shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high… and cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night… and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel… shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come… and open wide our heav’nly home ;
make safe the way that leads on high… and close the path to misery.
Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel… shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Adonai, Lord of might… Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
in ancient times didst give the law… in cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel… shall come to thee, O Israel.

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