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Article: O Come O Come Emmanuel


How many times have you heard or sung this song so far this year? Maybe dozens by now? (Maybe you think, “Too many”.) And how many of those times were you struck with the weight of its message? Maybe, like me, not many. The popularity of this song, mixed with its confusing lyrics (“Thou Rod of Jesse”?), can easily hide its rich depth. But let's look again at this song for a minute and let the scriptural truth it contains uplift your heart and refocus your eyes on Jesus. 

This song, unlike many of the other celebratory Christmas carols, is a weighty song of prayer. With each verse, we cry out to Jesus—recognizing the pain and longing we feel and asking Him to act. And in the chorus that follows, we rejoice together in confidence because Jesus is coming and He is going to fulfill the longings of our hearts! So pray through this song with me:

Verse 1
O come, O come, because as the prophets said, you are Emmanuel, the God who comes to be “with us” (Isaiah 7).

And ransom captive Israel. Set us prisoners free.

That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. God, in this life we groan with all creation, we feel the loneliness of being barred from our home—from being with You. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. Rejoice because God has heard our prayers! Just as Jesus came to ransom us from the power of sin 2000 years ago, He is going to come to rescue us from the presence of sin and to be with us! Rejoice because, on that day, our lonely exile will be forever over!

Verse 2
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse. You are the royal descendant of Jesse (the Father of King David) who the prophets said would come to reign with righteousness, faithfulness, and power (Isaiah 11).

Free Thine own from Satan's tyranny. Overthrow Satan’s reign of terror in our lives and in our world with Your reign of goodness.

From depths of hell Thy people save, And give them victory o'er the grave. Rescue us from the fear and destruction of death.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. Rejoice! Because Jesus the Righteous Ruler is going to come, and His will is going to be done on earth as it is in heaven! Our struggle with sin is coming to an end!

Verse 3
O come desire of nations. In your presence is fullness of joy. You are the Light of the world.

Bind All peoples in one heart and mind; Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease. We see hatred and evil in our world, in our city, and even some of us, in our families. We long for you to command division to cease! Bind us all together in a new heart and a new mind that desires You!

Fill the whole world with heaven's peace. Let us experience a reconciliation of all things to You, so that the world becomes a heavenly place filled with Your peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. Rejoice! Your prayer will not go unanswered! Just as Jesus came once to bring us peace with God, one day He is going to come again and fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. And we will forever live on a heavenly earth with the Desire of our hearts. 

As we hear this song of longing and expectation several more times this Christmas season, let’s rejoice that Emmanuel is coming to be with us again!