Ella Quayle
Advent - Part 1, 'O come, O come Emmanuel'

" Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and he will call Him Emmanuel" Isaiah 7:14

With the traditional hymns for Carol services, the Christmas Classics for parties, and loads of soundtracks to Christmas films and musicals. Music has a massive role to play this season. santa with music
Perhaps this may be a little controversial, but I get excited when the well-known Mariah Carey's 'All I want for Christmas' song comes on the radio for the first time each year. While others may find it irritating (hence why I have to control my burst of excitement around people), I feel that's when you know, the season has begun, Christmas time has arrived!

My point is, Christmas Music is a big part to play in our culture. And through this Advent series, I'm going to be briefly looking into a range of different Christmas sings/hymns to look at God's character in each of them. Hopefully, each week will leave you feeling encouraged, strengthened, and closer to God.

This week we will be looking at the hymn O come o come Emmanuel composed by John Mason Neale (1851).

Here are a few versions of the song I would recommend listening to: 

Maverick City Music Version - worshipful approach

BYU Vocal Point - Beatboxing Version - very powerful

Choir of King's College, Cambridge, traditional version

Originally in Latin, this hymn was discovered by the famous architect of the Oxford movement, a translator of early Greek and Latin hymns, John Mason Neale. He found the piece of music in the appendix of an 18th-Century manuscript, "Psalterium Cationum Catholicorum" which he then included in his influential collection, Mediaeval Hymns, and Sequences (1851). The Latin metrical form of the hymn O come O come, Emmanuel has been thought to have been composed as early as the 12th-Century, and takes us back over 1,200 years to monastic life in the 8th-or 9th-century.

The word Emmanuel is referenced lots in the Bible as being one of God's names (Matthew 1:23).  Emmanuel meaning God with us comes from the Greek rendering of two Hebrew words: `immanu, 'with us' and 'el, 'God'.

In this very well-known hymn, there is such great Biblical theology on God's character and the Bible makes it clear that God is, a God who wants to be with his people. He is a Father who is willing to send His beloved one and only son to restore the relationship between God and man (1 John 4:10-11). This point is emphasized in verse three of O come, O come Emmanuel: "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..." ( 1 Chronicles 16:31, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Psalm 118:24)

One of the reasons for God sending His son to restore the relationship between God and man is because God is a God of love. He made creation because He wanted to pour out His love on us, wants a relationship with us, wants to be with us. Before Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection, He promised the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-21, 15:26, 16:13-14). So that even when Jesus ascended, God did not leave us on our own, but sent an advocate, a helper, to be with us always (John 14: 15-31).

Who is the Holy Spirit? - for older children

Who is the Holy Spirit?
- for younger children

Each person who believes in Jesus, and follows Him, has been given the gift of the Holy Spirit( Romans 8:9-11). We are never forsaken or alone (Isaiah 25:4, John 14:18, Romans 8:38-39). I find that so breath-taking that the God of time and eternity, the one who has orchestrated creation, is with me right now, even as I'm writing the blog post. You don't have to be the smartest, prettiest, fittest, kindest, have a great job, have the right relationship status, or have what the world would call a 'successful life', that doesn't add to anything. God's presence with us is not because of who we are, but it's because of who He is. He's a God full of love and grace. One of His names is Emmanuel. Names give identity, and part of God's identity is that He is here with His people.

In verse 1 of o come o come Emmanuel, it says: 'Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel' I believe this emphasizes the point of rejoicing in the fact he is with us! That we should praise and worship and thank Him for this amazing truth. Which, is shown further in verse four: "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 fight" This also reminds us that we should be rejoicing, cheering at Jesus defeating darkness. He has overcome the grave ( Isaiah 9:2, John 8:12) we have been set free (John 8:36, Luke 4: 16-21)!

I am currently doing a course called the School of Leadership, an excellent course on the theology of the Bible. One of the things I have learned so far, which I find so amazing, is that we are living in such incredible times. In the Old Testament, God still longed to be with His people, hence the Tabernacle (Exodus 25, 31 and 35-40), yet God's presence wasn't as personal or as deep as it can be today. The reason for this is Christ's blood atoning us and restoring our relationship with God.

Be encouraged that we don't have to go to a special place to encounter God, eat or wear certain things, perform specific rituals. No. We can come before the creator of all living things right here, right now. All He wants is your heart, doesn't matter how broken and undeserving you feel. God's love is undeserving, we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), yet He still desires us and wants to be with us.

As we are heading towards Christmas, I would encourage you to take a moment to be alone, you and God, to rest in his presence. He is with you! Perhaps ask God to speak to you through pictures, words, songs, phrases, people, ideas. Feel free to use your creativity (whatever that might look like) to express what you feel God, as He speaks to you on the subject of Emmanuel and how He is with us! But take a moment to rest and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the fullness of how great it is that God is here with us, Emmanuel.

Here are some scriptures to help you dwell on this subject: Isaiah 7:14, Zephaniah 3:7, Psalm 23:4,

Recommended song:

Emmanuel, Hillsong