The Carol of the Bells
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And here are the immensely rich lyrics of this hymn, for your advent contemplation! I’ve included all the verses (though I’m sure I’ve only ever sung 4 or 5 of the 8 included here). Scroll down to the end of the lyrics for more information about the origins and themes of this carols (which is immensely under-rated I fear).
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
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.
O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.
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.
NB: The Words were combined from various antiphons by an unknown author, possibly in the 12th Century (Veni, veni Emanuel); translated from Latin to English by John M. Neale, Mediaeval Hymns, 1851. Neale’s original translation began, “Draw nigh, draw nigh, Emmanuel.”
Music: Veni Emmanuel, from a 15th Century processional of French Franciscan nuns (the setting for the funeral hymn Libera me); arranged by Thomas Helmore in the Hymnal Noted, Part II (London: 1856) (MIDI, score).
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.” Immanuel is Hebrew for “God with us.” The “Rod of Jesse” refers to Isaiah 11:1: “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse”; Jesse was the father of David, second king of Israel. “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.”