Receiving the Light • Devotion #3: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”

It is believed “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” was written in Latin by an anonymous Monk about 1200 years ago. In 1851, John Mason Neale translated it from Latin to English and called it “Draw nigh, draw nigh, Emmanuel.” Eventually, it became known as, “O Come, O come, Emmanuel.”

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.

The name Emmanuel (also spelled Immanuel) is so meaningful. Isaiah 7:14 prophesied about the Messiah (Jesus)  coming, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Matthew 1:23 records this completed prophecy and also defines Immanuel for us, “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” Since Jesus is God, then when He came to earth, it meant God came to earth. God was with us!

The other verses of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” refer to Jesus as the Lord of Might, Rod of Jesse, the Day-Spring, the Key of David, and the Lord. It is profitable to see the Bible verses associated with these titles.

In Exodus 19:16, we read of the Lord of Might, “On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.” I imagine the scene would have been breathtaking and quite intimidating.

Isaiah 11:1 refers to the root (historians feel the songwriter took some liberty in saying rod) of Jesse, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Isaiah 11:10 adds,  “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” 

In Numbers 24:17, Moses writes of a star (also referred to as Dayspring or Morning Star by some) that shall rise with Scepter, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.”

Finally, the writer of this carol references the Key of David. Isaiah 22:22 says, “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.”

I know some of the titles can seem like a stretch from the verses. I think they refer to it as “poetic freedom” or “poetic license.” I am not going to argue with a monk who wrote 1200 years ago or with Neale on how he translated the words of the carol from Latin to English. My goal is that we think of what we are singing. There are some beautiful references and titles of Jesus that should help us see Him, appreciate Him, and worship Him in a deeper way.

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