Thought for the Day : Thursday 10 December

Thought for the Day by Bob Shaw (St Michael’s)

O Come O Come Emmanuel     (Hymns Ancient and Modern)

The title and opening lines of this Advent carol take the form of a plea for God to come and release his chosen people from prison. This may resonate with us as we struggle today with the constraints imposed by the current global pandemic. However, the words of this popular carol stem from long ago when the people of Israel found themselves in Babylonian exile and desperate for freedom .It was an unforgettable experience and a critical event in Jewish history. We may not be as familiar with the Old Testament as we used to be but if you open the book of the prophet Isaiah you will find the origin of all 5 verses of this Advent hymn.

Verse 1. Isaiah 7:14 assures the suffering people that ‘God is with them’, ‘Emmanuel’ in Hebrew.

Verse 2. Isaiah 11:1 confirms that they will be freed from captivity by someone who is related to former Jewish leaders ie ‘The Rod of Jesse’.

Verse 3. Isaiah 60:1-2 predicts that the present clouds of darkness will be turned to light by the Dayspring of God’s glory.

Verse 4. Isaiah 22:22 declares that the ‘Key of David’ will open the door into a safe place.

Verse 5. Isaiah 1:24 prophesies that God, ‘Lord of Might’, will overcome all his people’s enemies.

For Christians all these prophecies from Isaiah have found their fulfilment in the New Testament Gospel thanks to the coming of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all humanity, who has opened the gate of Heaven to free us from all evil. We find His birth foretold in Isaiah ch7:14. Jesus Himself is therefore ‘God with us’, ‘Emmanuel’.  Mark begins his gospel by quoting Isaiah ch 40 v3 in connection with preparation for Jesus’ ministry.

Not surprisingly the Book of Isaiah features prominently in the daily prayer readings set for Advent in our Anglican lectionary and we know that Jesus Himself stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth at the beginning of His ministry, quoting a verse from Isaiah (Luke ch4 vv 16-21). He also told his disciples to take careful note of Isaiah’s words (Matthew ch13 vv 14-17). There could be no higher recommendation so why not take your Bible off the shelf and may the words of this famous carol in this season of Advent bring us fresh hope and reassurance during these days of trial and tribulation.

Yes, it may seem amazing, but we who are Advent people can also rejoice and sing in company with the angels and the whole company of Heaven.

O come O come, Emmanuel:

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.

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.                                                  

Words by J. M Neale

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