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“O Come O Come Emmanuel:” A Devotional in Music and Lyrics

Saturday Morning Devotional – 5th in the Song Series

Let’s continue looking at the lyrics of some of our favorite Christmas songs. The 5th song in the series is “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”

Song O Come O Come Emmanuel

‚ÄčI have always loved the mysterious sound of “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” but the lyrics make it even better. There are many lines in this song that have deep meaning. Read them and listen closely to the song as you sing it this Christmas.

A Brief History of “O Come O Come Emmanuel”

This song and it’s history are very interesting to me. It is a Latin hymn that was written and sung in the 12th century, but it wasn’t finished in the way that we know it until the 1800’s.

The song has an unknown author, but I am not surprised since it is an ancient hymn.  I did find where John Mason Neale and Henry S. Coffin both took the Latin text and translated some of the lyrics back in the 1800’s. These are the words we sing today. 

The most interesting thing I found about this song is that each stanza or verse is focused on a different name or attribute of Jesus Christ. Obviously, the title has His name Emmanuel, which means “God With Us!” Pay close attention and see each of the names bolded in the verses below.

Lyrics of “O Come O Come Emmanuel”

The words of this hymn are public domain, so I will share all of them. There are many verses to this song. Most hymnals only have 4 verses, but I found 10!

O Come O Come Emmanuel

(Verse 1)

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

(Refrain, which is sung after every verse):
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

(Verse 2)

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.

(Verse 3)

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.

(Verse 4)

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.

(Verse 5)

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.

(Verse 6)

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.

(Verse 7)

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.

(Verse 8)

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.

(Verse 9)

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.

(Verse 10)

O come, Desire of Nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with Heaven’s peace.

Favorite Lyrics from “O Come O Come Emmanuel”

Many years ago, Pastor Larry Jordan preached a sermon about the name Emmanuel or Immanuel – God With Us. It was so powerful and still sticks in my mind. I love to hear the Name Emmanuel, so obviously, I love the first verse.

More than just His Name being mentioned though is the fact they they are asking Him to ransom captive Israel. That says so much. He is our Ransom!

ransom verse from O Come O Come Emmanuel

Some of the other lyrics that really stand out to me are:

  • “To us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in it’s ways to go.”
  • “From depths of hell your people save, and give them victory over the grave.”
  • “Make safe for us the Heavenward road, and bar the way to death’s abode.”
  • “Bid all our sad divisions cease, and be Yourself our King of Peace.”
  • “Free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny.”
  • “Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.”
  • “Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease; fill the whole world with Heaven’s peace.

These are amazing lyrics with marvelous meanings. We should sing this song year round!

Other Favorite Christmas Songs

There is no way to share all of the wonderful Christmas songs! Although Christmas Day will be over for 2023, I am sharing one more next week. You will understand why when you read it.

Until then, check out these songs if you get a chance:

“And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell His people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the Morning Light from Heaven is about to break upon us.” Luke 1:76-78

Listen to “O Come O Come Emmanuel”

There are many versions of this song, but I love Chris Tomlin’s version. Click here to listen to it.

Related Post

What does That Song Mean? “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”

Lessons from the Christmas Manger

Let us really pay attention to Who we are celebrating this Christmas. May this old Latin hymn help give you a new perspective. Please share the lyrics or aspect of Christ that stands out to you.

Until next week…

Closing Signature
I disclose

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“Let the whole earth shout to the Lord; be jubilant, shout for joy, and sing.” Psalms 98:4

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7 Comments

  1. I have always loved this hymn. Your description of “ancient” is just right. I hadn’t really realized that EVERY verse has a different name or title of Jesus Christ. Thank you for sharing this post at the Will Blog for Comments #19 linkup! Merry Christmas.

  2. Thanks for this unpacking of one of my favorite Christmas songs!! The lyrics are so meaningful, then add the beautiful music and you have a powerful testament to who Jesus truly is!! I found you on the Will Blog for Comments link party. I hope you will visit my post and leave a comment for me. Thanks again for such a beautiful post!

    1. Thank you so much! I love this song too. It is beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing your site with me. I will check it out now. Happy New Year to you and your family!

  3. I have learned so much from this series, Susan. It definitely makes me appreciate their lasting power because we continue to enjoy them to his day. Can’t wait to check out your other recommendations too. I see some of my favorites on there! Hugs, CoCo

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