Christmas Carols - Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel

Christmas Carols - Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel


O come, O come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear


O come, thou Day-Spring, come and cheer

Our spirits by thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And Death's dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee O Israel


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

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

Shall come to you, O Israel


O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. (Isaiah 64:4)

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:22-23)

This song is a wonderful Christmas song because it is a song of anticipation. Teaching on this song, John Piper helpfully points out that this song points us to the first and second comings of Christ. In his teaching he helps us to feel the impact of the song on the heart,  “The common tune, linked with these lyrics in 1851 by Thomas Helmore, captures the plaintive mood of longing…It is an excellent musical match to the mood of the song. Longing. Aching. Yearning. Hoping.”[1]

We can all relate to these things, can’t we? In the world we live in we anticipate deliverance, rescue, and better times to come. Christmas is a season of anticipation where we long for renewal and joy. This song gives words to the cries and desires of our hearts. It is a cry for God to act. The prophet Isaiah, who first gives us in the Scriptures understanding of the Messiah as Immanuel – God with us (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:21) also teaches us that God is a God “who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” This song is a cry of waiting.

In the Old Testament, ancient Israel was a people often in exile and waiting for the deliverance of God. The new Israel, the Church, the people of God scattered across the globe, are also a people in exile who both celebrate and anticipate the deliverance of God. We long for the many things mentioned in this song, yet we have already experienced their realities. Christmas is the joyous remembrance that the Son of God has appeared to free us from Satan’s tyranny, to save us from the depths of hell, and to give us victory over the grave. Jesus has cheered our spirits, dispersed the “gloomy clouds of night” and has put “death’s dark shadows” to flight. He has opened “wide our heavenly home,” made safe the way that leads on high, and has closed the path to misery. Through the coming of the Son of God into the world, we have received life, joy, and eternal hope.

Yet we still wait and hope. We wait for the second coming of the Son of God. We wait for Him to appear again. We wait because we know that when He does Satan’s tyranny will be defeated in full, death will be a thing of the past, and we will experience complete victory over the grave as we share in a glorious resurrection to come (Revelation 19-21). The gloomy clouds of night will be no more, because in our heavenly home “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5)

In this world there is misery, but in Christ, there is everlasting joy. So this Christmas, let us look to the past and what Christ has done in His first coming, and let us look to His second coming with great hope and anticipation. Let this great song give words to the longings of our hearts as we remember that “He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Therefore, let us pray with the apostle John “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20)



[1] “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” Desiring God, updated December 13, 2015, accessed December 2, 2020,

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