O Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel

The First Sunday of Advent is this weekend, December 3rd. In the Catholic Church, we tend to think of Advent as the four Sundays when we light the candles in the wreath at mass, and perhaps even at home as well.

It is the liturgical season when we rightly prepare for two comings of Christ. As we are all well aware, it is a joyous time of remembrance and observance of the birth of Christ, the Incarnation, when our God loved us so very much that He took on human flesh for the sole purpose of drawing us back to Him. He came on a rescue mission, and from the first breath he drew as a babe, His divine love established Him firmly on that course.

Less well known is the second purpose of Advent. We remind ourselves that there will be a second coming of our Lord. We prepare for that day and time, knowing not the hour or the day. Our readings at mass, as the liturgical year of the Church comes to an end, last Sunday being the final Sunday of the year, have been much about the wise virgins who awaited the Bridegroom with lamps full of oil.

The Church gives us this season to prepare ourselves, to associate the birth of Christ with the sure knowledge that He will come again, and that we, in our human pre-occupation, may have gotten distracted and let other things take precedence over our most pressing concerns.

The Liturgical Calendar of the Church is a valuable tool, if we will use it, with its seasons and solemnities. Aside from the beauty and order it brings to my faith life, the teaching and meaning it brings, I think of it kind of like the religious version of my iPhone calendar. A reminder is set, telling me something very important is soon to take place, giving me time to make my preparations.

Many Catholic Christians will not put up the tree until right before Christmas, choosing to observe Advent as a time of anticipation and waiting. Many will avoid traditional Christmas music as well, choosing particular songs during Advent that specifically represent that waiting and longing for Christ. The most commonly known one is Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel.

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

If you would like information on how to make an Advent wreath, here is a link with step by step instructions, even telling you how to bless the wreath.

Here is a link with many ideas for Advent calendars that your children or grandchildren might enjoy. I like the ones I have seen that have a short scripture verse or prayer in the envelope or drawer that you open.

We all have four weeks until Christmas. We can spend it wisely, lighting our lamps and filling our containers with oil in anticipation and welcome, or we can complain that we don’t have enough time to get everything done, and spend it all shopping, cooking, decoration, and partying.

Nothing at all is wrong with any of those things, and I intend to do them also. But I will give myself the gift of longing for Christ the Child, anticipating and celebrating that wonderful first Christmas, and preparing myself for His return, the day and hour unknown to me, but if I take the time to ponder on it, the real reason to celebrate.

I am much better at the celebrations and the anticipation, and not so great at the preparations, which is why the Church wisely calls me back each Sunday in the readings, reminding me to wake up, be ready, light my lamp with welcome.

You can sign up for Advent reflections, a short paragraph or two that will come in your email daily here. This is a ministry of Bishop Barron’s Word On Fire organization, and is useful for any Christian. It is not Catholic in nature, just readings and meditations.

Finally, more and more Christians of all denominations are beginning to observe and celebrate Advent. Of course I write from my own Catholic perspective and experiences, but almost all of what I include here is pretty non denominational. If the idea of these observances is new to you, and you would like some ideas and thoughts from a Protestant perspective, there are many good ones out there. Here is a link to get you started.

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44 Responses to O Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel

  1. Thanks, Menagerie. We often lose sight of Advent as its own liturgical “season.” And the carol you posted is one of my all time favorites. Advent blessings to you and all Treepers.

    Liked by 8 people

  2. Beenthere says:

    Brilliantly& completely stated. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Alison says:

    Beautiful, Menagerie, and very helpful to serve in bringing us closer to the meaning of Christmas.
    I have always loved this song. Now I read the lyrics with renewed appreciation.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. EbonyRapror says:

    My favorite Christmas hymn. I have probably a dozen of more renditions from different artists. While it is obviously an Advent hymn, I’m happy when its played on Christmas too.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Minnie says:

    Thank you, menagerie ❤️


    Liked by 1 person

  6. The Tundra PA says:

    Beautiful post, Menagerie. Thank you. As a new Catholic and former protestant, I am only beginning to come to an appreciation of the longing of Advent. Most protestants don’t pay much attention to it.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Blacksmith8 says:

    But, Christmas is a beginning as well. The mounting anticipation for the Epiphany.

    It also marks the First day of a TWELVE DAY PARTY at our house.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Cindy says:

    Thank you, Menagerie, for your beautiful writing on the season of Advent. Me being baptized into the Catholic Church is the most precious thing that has ever happened to me. It’s wonderful to see it boldly proclaimed on a website.

    You’re awesome!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. AM says:

    Wonderful post, thank you!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. positron1352 says:

    Thank you for your respect for the Catholic Christians. Although I am not Catholic, I have great admiration for them. I love it when Christians come together to celebrate the birth of our Lord as opposed to the criticisms I often hear of each other’s dogmas, worship and liturgical practices. Many, many thanks! May God be with you this blessed season.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. skeinster says:

    There’s a good version on this, as well- best Advent CD ever:


  12. skeinster says:

    And, as Christmas is on a Sunday this year, 2017 has the shortest Advent possible: 21 days.
    A blessed season to all, and thank you, Menagerie, for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Oldschool says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post. In my Catholic upbringing, there was much focus on preparation during the Lenten season and so little on Advent. I promised myself that this year, I would spend more time and focus on preparing for the arrival of our Savior and today your post appears. Thank you for helping in our faithful journey. God’s peace be with you.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. dave says:

    Thank you. It’s good that the Mass readings also remind us that Christ is coming the second time as judge. Something to get ready for.


  15. Jacqueline Taylor Robson says:

    Thank you, Menagerie. I’m not a Catholic, but I did take a few lessons from a priest by mail. He was in NYC, and I took the lessons because I thought my future DH was Catholic. Lol, turned out he was CofE! It was very interesting, but I never got very far into it. I’ll definitely check out these links, because it’s always nice to know more about the Christian faith. I’m a Southern Baptist by the way, and went to a Congregational Holiness Church for a while. I even had a Jewish step-dad!
    The only thing I’m REALLY sure of , is I love Jesus, and He loves me. I even remember the first Bible verse I had to remember in Bible School at the age of 3! “Love one another!”

    Liked by 1 person

  16. New Nonna to be Again!!! says:

    Menagerie, I can’t thank you enough for your beautiful post on Advent and it’s intended purpose. To help us prepare for the birth of Our Savior, Baby Jesus!!

    I’ve been holding off signing in as ‘New Nonna to Be Again!! (Thank You, God!) because not all family members knew the wonderful news, until this weekend, that is

    Anticipating the birth of my second grandchild-to-be makes this Advent that much more relatable for me this year. Last year during Advent I was anticipating the birth of my first grandchild, but my dear dad died December 3, 2016. My mind wasn’t able to fully participate in all the Season’s anticipation and joy.

    This year, dad’s first anniversary falls on the first Sunday of Advent. The wonderful news of our new grandbaby-to-be, combined with the first anniversary of dad’s passing falling on the first day of Advent, seems to have broken through the very difficult, sad memories of the two years leading up to dad’s death.

    God is so good. Thank You, God!

    Come, O come, Emmanuel, come and fill our hearts with the Joy that surpasses all else. 🙏.

    God bless us, every ONE.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Luke from NJ says:

    O Come o Come Emmanuel( Veni, Veni Emmanuel) comes from the great “O Antiphons” which are chanted during Vespers(evening prayer) for the week before Christmas throughout the world.
    Several years ago my wife made an O Antiphon house for our family. Each night for the week before Christmas we sing the appropriate verse, and place the wooden piece into each room of the miniature house. All seven(soon to be 8!) kids and I look forward to it every year.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. W Barna says:

    Thank you, Menagerie! The videos are out on Christmas 2017 at the White House…..our beautiful First Lady has done an elegant job of returning our Christ to the White House Christmas! Thank God for the Trumps!


  19. A2 says:

    O thought the Deplorables would like this thought from C.S. Lewis (for Advent–The Coming)
    “Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed…and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going.”
    ~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p46

    Thank you Miss M.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Anita says:

    Having serious flashbacks to my first 25 years at St. Aloysius Elementary/Church. Also St Thomas Aquinas High School. Wow. Non practicing these days. Thanks for the memories and nudge to never forget.


  21. jb says:

    Veni veni, Emmanuel
    captivum solve Israel,
    qui gemit in exsilio,
    privatus Dei Filio.
    R: Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
    nascetur pro te Israel! . . . etc.

    The “O Antiophons” – especially this one which I have done Christmas Eve acapella – should be heard in Latin in there eintrety- in Gregorian Chant. There is nothing quite like it!


  22. jb says:

    Sorry for the typos – me bad.


  23. Kathy says:

    Thank you, Menagerie, for this timely thread! It can certainly be a challenge to focus on the true meaning of Christmas with the commercialization of it plastered everywhere. But one of the things I so for myself at the beginning of every Holiday season is re-read the words below. Published in the December 1964 issue of McCall’s Magazine, this writing is attributed to Margaret Cousins (who may have been the editor at the time).

    In the long twilight of the year, the faces of the children grow luminous. Rosy with cold, arabesqued with snowflakes, leaning into the wind, or drowsing before the fire, their eyes large, they look and listen, as if they glimpsed the peripheries of a miracle or heard a soundless music in the air. From the innocent kingdom of implicit belief to that uncomfortable arena where the implacable mind battles the intractable heart, the faces of children at Christmas are lighted with visions of things to come.

    It seems certain they will travel roads we never thought of; navigate strange seas, cross unimagined boundaries, and glimpse horizons beyond our power to visualize. What can we give them to take along? For the wild shores of Beyond, no toy or bauble will do. It must be something more; constructed of stouter fabric discovered among the cluttered aisles and tinseled bargain counters of experience, winnowed from what little we have learned. It must be devised out of responsibility and profound caring – a home-made present of selfless love. Everything changes but the landscapes of the heart.

    … Attention, for one day it will be too late.
    … A sense of value. The inalienable place of the individual in the scheme of things, with all that accrues to the individual: self-reliance, courage, conviction, self-respect, and respect for others.
    … A sense of humor. Laughter leavens life.
    … The meaning of discipline. If we falter at discipline, life will do it for us.
    … The will to work. Satisfying work is the lasting joy.
    … The talent for sharing, for it is not so much what we give as what we share.
    … The love of justice. Justice is the bulwark against violence and oppression and the repository of human dignity.
    … The passion for truth, founded on precept and example. Truth is the beginning of every good thing.
    … The power of faith, engendered in mutual trust. Life without faith is a dismal dead-end street.
    … The beacon of hope, which lights all darkness.
    … The knowledge of being loved beyond demand, reciprocity, praise, or blame — for those so loved are never really lost.

    … The open sky, the brown earth, the leafy tree, the golden sand, the blue water, the stars in their courses, and awareness of these.
    … Birdsong, butterflies, storms and rainbows.
    … Sunlight, moonlight, firelight.
    … A large hand reaching down for a small hand, impromptu praise, an unexpected kiss, a straight answer.
    … The glisten of enthusiasm and a sense of wonder.
    … Long days to be merry and nights without fear.
    … The memory of a good home.


  24. Patriot1783 says:

    Thank you Menagerie.


  25. Shark24 says:

    Beautiful post and thread, thank you Menagerie. I’ll be doing Advent at St Joseph’s here in Abu Dhabi this year. I can tell you there is an incredible dedication to the Faith over here where Christians are a minority, the faithful do not take it for granted. Luckily the UAE allows other than Moslem places of worship to exist although with no external symbols. God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. churchmouse says:

    Thank you, Menagerie, for a beautiful article about Advent and ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’.

    However, many Protestants also observe Advent — liturgically, musically and spiritually.

    The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion (my denom), Lutherans and even Calvinists do, too.

    Links (omit * when copying and pasting):

    The Episcopal Church — *https://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/calendar-church-year

    The Church of England (Anglican Communion) — *https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/churchs-year/times-and-seasons/advent

    Lutheran Church — *https://www.lcms.org/christmas-advent-resources

    Calvinism (Reformed churches) — *https://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/advent-resource-guide/


    • pacnwbel says:

      Anglican here too, our church offers the Festival of Lessons and Carols on the first Sunday of Advent, with beautiful music, choral, communal singing and instrumental, interlaced with scriptural readings. It is a reflective and calming preparation in the spirit of the Christmas season. We light advent candles successively each Sunday accompanied by a themed prayer and commentary.

      Liked by 1 person

      • churchmouse says:

        Thank you very much, pacnwbel — greatly appreciated. May you and yours have that everlasting blessing of hope and happiness during Advent.

        Our two parishes observe Advent — along with many other Anglican churches around the world.

        Most of our clergy also wear purple vestments.

        We, too, await the commemoration of our Saviour’s birth.


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