O come, O come, Emmanuel is a very old Christmas hymn that dates back to around the 12th century. It was translated from Latin to English by John M. Neale in 1851. Known for it’s haunting melody and rich messianic themes it has remained a Christmas favorite for centuries. Let’s look at three stanzas.
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!
Israel, like sheep, had wandered away from God. Held prisoner by their sin they longed for the promised Savior who would restore their relationship with the Father by making “his soul an offering for sin” thus making “intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:6;12) The Savior would pay the ransom that was owed and would lead the captives into the presence of God.
The hymn writer tells Israel to rejoice because Emmanuel is this Savior. Emmanuel means “God with us.” God Himself would be their Savior just as He had always been in times past. God is not unconcerned or unaware of their troubles. Rather He loves those who are lost and comes to save them personally.
We are to rejoice as well. Christ’s sacrifice was so great that it couldn’t be limited to just Israel. He is “salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6) He is my salvation and your salvation and the salvation of any who call upon His name. (Romans 10:12-13)
O come, O 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
The “Rod of Jesse” is a reference to David’s father and the family line from which Christ would come. By becoming a man Christ would be able to be mankind’s kinsmen redeemer. A kinsmen redeemer was a close relative who would purchase back something a relative had sold because of debt.
Man, in a sense, sold his salvation to pay the sin debt he owed. By becoming a man, and living a perfect life, Jesus owed no debt making him qualified to become our kinsmen redeemer and purchase us back from sin.
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer,
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Dayspring is the dawn, the first light of day. When our spirits were dark like midnight Christ rose like the “Sun of Righteousness” (Malachi 4:2) to be the “light of the world”. (John 8:12)
“Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high has visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)
Rejoice! O Israel and all the world! God is with us and has set us free.