Advent 2014 – Week 4 Day 1

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear! This familiar hymn sung during Advent season is truly a hymn of the Church. The text originates from at least the 800s as part of the single-verse songs used as part of the evening Vespers (prayer service) during Advent. Musically, these would have been sung to a single note chant, or Gregorian chant. Around 1100, the verses were translated into a Latin poem, and then printed in 1700 as part of a Psalter collection. During this time period, the chant would have transitioned to multiple voices singing different notes in harmony, with instrumental accompaniment. Following the Reformation and the fragmenting of the Catholic Church into many denominations, the Latin poem was rediscovered by an Anglican Priest, John Mason Neale. The song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” was included in his hymnal of medieval songs in 1851, but was given little regard. Neale set the words to a tune from a 15th-century processional funeral hymn giving it a deep, contemplative feel. The song was officially included in the Anglican hymnal in 1861, and later modified by the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches to become that hymn that we know today. This ancient hymn is not only a beautiful song, but a thread that connects modern Christians to the heritage, traditions, and Church of ages past. The lyrics of the verse cry out to God, Israel’s and OUR only hope for rescue and ransom. The chorus rings out in praise and adoration to our Refuge, the Provider, the only wise God, who sent His Son to be God With Us, Emmanuel. Interestingly, as a high church traditionalist, Neale “disliked the hymns of Isaac Watts and longed to return Christianity to the liturgical dignity of church history” (Morgan, “Then Sings My Soul” Vol.2). Watts, who was highly dissatisfied with the church’s lack of cultural engagement with regard to music, began writing hymns for the church, such as “Joy to the World”. These two hymns now exist side by side in many churches: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” with a long history in the church and the more “modern” offering from Watts. Both give voice to the praise of Jesus our Creator, Redeemer, King, and ultimately the Restorer of all things. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!