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.”
This is a hymn of great strength, it is announcing that something amazing is to come and we should all raise our voices and rejoice. The Emmanuel,The Christ, the Saviour of the world, his birth is imminent. It was foretold right down through the old testament and now the time is coming, it will happen, the Emmanuel is coming. Rejoice. We wait now for his next coming, Rejoice.