I was not certain how these words would play out in a blog until I got a little curious about a Christmas hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Brian and I put up some of our Christmas decorations yesterday while listening to Christmas music. I love this 18th century plainsong, which actually derived from a poem dating back to the 5th or 8th century…its origin is unclear! This Latin chant was used in a call and response fashion during the vespers, or evening, service during the 12th century. I’ll share more about this special hymn later; let’s get back to these three words! Expect, anticipate, and prepare… humm? What should I expect, Lord? Anticipate? Isn’t that the same as expect?! Prepare? Prepare what? Or prepare for what? My mind began to wonder why these three words were clumped together. I still didn’t know until I read this online while researching the hymn tune: “Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing.” Sunday, November 30, 2014, (today as I write) is the first day of Advent! Talking about chill bumps!
“Come, O Come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel!”
1 O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
2 O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go. Refrain
3 O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain
4 O come, O Branch of Jesse's stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o'er the grave. Refrain
5 O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death's abode. Refrain
6 O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light. Refrain
7 O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace. Refrain
Psalter Hymnal (Gray)
5th century Jewish Christians may have used this Advent hymn, since most of the themes are from the Old Testament. In the 9th century, the hymn was incorporated by the medieval church for use during Advent. During the week before Christmas Day, seven “Great ‘O’ Antiphons,” each of them in praise and wonderment (“O”) of an Old Testament name for the coming Messiah, were chanted.
In the 13th century, these antiphons were put in Latin hymn form, “Veni, Emmanuel,” and the “Rejoice” refrain was added. In Latin, the seven antiphons formed an acrostic from the opening words:
“O Sapienta” (Wisdom): In Christ are found “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).
“O Adonai” (Lord of Might): He is called “Mighty God” (Is 9:6).
“O Radix Jesse” (Root of Jesse): After the kingdom of David, Jesse’s son, was cut down to a mere stump, Messiah will come and rebuild it into a kingdom made up of Jews and Gentiles (Is 11:1, 10).
“O Clavis David” (Key of David): The Son of David will have the authority to open and shut heaven’s gate (Is 22:22).
“O Oriens” (Light of the East): As the bright Morning Star and Dayspring, the Messiah will give light to all who walk in darkness (Nm 24:17; Is 9:2; John 8:12).
“O Rex gentium” (King of Nations): At last, when he returns, he will reign as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords (Is 9:6; Rv 19:16).
“O Emmanuel” (God With Us): He came down from heaven to dwell with us (Jn 1:14). And he will return to take us to his dwelling-place forever (Rv 21:3).
When read backwards, S-A-R-C-O-R-E becomes Ero Cras (“I will be there tomorrow”), anticipating the arrival of Jesus on Christmas Day, God’s answer to the petition, “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” So the verse we usually sing as the first was actually the climactic last of the seven antiphons sung on Christmas Eve.*
I found this very interesting and there is a little debate on the actuality of reading backwards and whether this was intentional or not! It is said that the Benedictine Monks arranged the verses in this fashion and that it went along with the season of Advent. I often use acrostics when I create so this isn’t too far out there for me to believe. Kathy and I even began this ministry with a vision and connected its title with an acrostic. You can find it on our retreat registration page on the website.
“When we comprehend the rich meaning of the titles set forth in this song,
it is transformed from a simple Christmas carol into a powerful vehicle of praise
and a heartfelt prayer of anticipation.” ~ Christopher & Melanie Lane
When you choose to study the names of God, you learn more about His character and about His deep abiding love for us, His chosen ones. More knowledge and wisdom about our Savior awakens us to know and see Him more clearly. Our eyes are opened and our worship becomes more passionate. We long for Him to come again and we cry out, O Come, O Come…!
So those three little words (expect, anticipate, prepare) opened up a door for me. Although I grew up not knowing much about Advent, and never observed it, I am experiencing a new excitement about the Christmas season. I am also learning more about waiting which is at the heart of Advent! Because it’s been such a tough year for me, many questions saturate my mind. Along with these questions comes a season of waiting. Waiting on the Lord to reveal answers, direction, and purpose. These scripture verses also express the theme of Advent:
- Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! (Psalm 27:14)
- For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. (Psalm 62:5-7)
- Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isa 40:31)
- The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev 22:20)
- I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Rom 8:18-25)
- Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. (1 Peter 1:13)
It’s Psalm 98:4
“Shout to the Lord, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!”
With this beautiful carol I can shout and sing for joy! As I have closely studied the lyrics of this Advent hymn and learned of its origin, it has a new meaning for me. It is with heartfelt hope, longing, and waiting that I too can sing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. By the way, this week I am beginning a study by Ann Voskamp on the Greatest Christmas - The 4 Weeks of Advent! This blog surely isn't coincidence and I didn't plan it this way! It's simply God at work!
Expecting, Anticipating, and Preparing with a shout to the Lord
during this season of Advent,
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