Christ in the Carols – O Come O Come Emmanuel

Hi all. I drove to work in the midst of a little snow squall, which to be honest, wasn’t all that fun. It took a long time. But now that I’m in the comfort and extreme warmth of my office looking out, it looks real pretty.

Anyway, last night we had a small group over to our house and we were talking about our favorite Christmas Carols. I got to thinking it might be a cool thing to post some of the lyrics to a few great carols and talk about the imagery that they contain. These old hymns are so rich and full of great theology, and great poetic imagery.

Personally, my favorite Christmas carol is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. Partly I like the tune, but more so because each verse is so rich in symbolism and biblical imagery…

Here’s the words:

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 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.

This song really draws upon the theme of Jesus as the Son of David heavily. The Rod of Jesse (who was David’s father), the Root of Jesse’s tree, and the Key of David all draw upon this theme. God had covenanted with David that he would establish David’s throne forever and ever (2 Samuel 7: 16). This song reminds us that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise – a king from the line of David who’s rule is without end!

Jesus draws upon this theme in Matthew 22:41-46: “Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’?

45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” ESV

Jesus was certainly the Son of David, but not only the Son of David, also the Son of God. The Son of David would also be David’s Lord, because the Son of David, the Messiah, was the Son of God, God in the flesh, Emmanuel – God with us.