Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Songs of Joy

On Sunday we read Luke 1:46-55 and talked about how Mary’s song points us to God and reminds us of how God is faithful.

We also learned that O Come O Come Emmanuel was specifically written to help us look to God and remember the meaning of what we celebrate at Christmas.1

The words come from poets writing as early as 800 AD.  As they were passed on down through the ages, they became part of liturgy that was used in daily prayers to count down the days until the event of Jesus’ birth, much like Advent is our time of counting down the weeks.  There are seven verses of O Come, a prayer for each day of the last week before Christmas. 

They were to be used along with the song of Mary as part of daily prayers of preparation, of turning to God and preparing our hearts to make room for
  • knowing the joy of Jesus birth,
  • knowing the joy of Jesus coming to us,
  • knowing the joy of our salvation.

Each of the verses of O Come is a prayer of praise about who Jesus was and what he did, and making room for joy.

The haunting tune of this hymn also reminds us that joy is about more than being happy.  Joy is deeper.  Joy reaches into the depths of human experience and finds that in the midst of pain and sorrow God is there with us.  Emmanuel comes.

O Come O Come Emmanuel
1 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.
2 O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily:
to us the path of knowledge show;
and teach us in her ways to go. [Refrain]
3 O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times didst give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. [Refrain]
4 O come, thou Root of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save
and give them victory o’er the grave. [Refrain]
5 O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery. [Refrain]
6 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. [Refrain]
7 O come, Desire of nations, bind
all peoples in one heart and mind;
bid envy, strife, and discord cease;
fill the whole world with heaven’s peace. [Refrain]

In the wilderness, in the isolation of prison, in sadness of death and poverty and darkness, God’s love still shines in our hearts and gives us hope and strength and joy.

This is what Mary’s timeless song of joy sings about.  It echoes through the ages and reminds us of the promises the prophets wrote about, sounding remarkably like the words of Isaiah 61:

God has anointed me to bring good news to those who mourn …
    to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit

Like these words from Isaiah, Mary’s song is full of the joy of knowing that God is there and that God cares and loves us deeply.

This is what the coming of Jesus into the world is about.

This is joy.
1.  Read more here: and here:,_O_come,_Emmanuel

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