What Are You Singing? ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’
What rekindles our worship and wonder, causing us to reflect and repent, prompting us to hope and rejoice in this particular season of Advent? Perhaps the same spirit that moved abolitionists, advocates, and allies to pen our favorite holiday hymns can remind us of our reasons to rejoice.
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” begins as a plea of intercession on behalf of a people under oppressive captivity, but morphs into an exhortation to rejoice because the One who embodies God’s presence shall indeed come to those who’ve suffered.
While the original writer is still unknown, the words of this hymn were discovered and translated from Latin into English by an Anglican priest named John Mason Neale. Like the “lonely exiles” in the lyrics, Neale’s likely first audience for this hymn were the outcasts of society he had dedicated his life to serving in Victorian England — the orphaned, the sick, the homeless, and the exploited. They were among the first to hear these words in their language:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.