O Come, O Come, Immanuel

Read: Isaiah 7:3-17; Matthew 1:20-23

They shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us). (Matt. 1:23)

One of the most familiar and best-loved of all Advent hymns is the haunting “O Come, O Come Immanuel,” sung to a tune based on the Gregorian chant of the ancient church. The text goes back to an 8th-century antiphon, a “call and response” hymn that was used by choirs of monks and nuns during Advent. Each verse begins with an invitation to Jesus to come and save his people. Each one also addresses Jesus using a different name or image for him drawn from the Old Testament, some of which include Immanuel (Isa. 7:14), Adonai (“Lord,” used in Exod. 19:16 in connection with the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai), Branch of Jesse (Isa. 11:1), Key of David (Isa. 22:22), and Bright Morning Star (Num. 24:17).

Each of these images speaks in one way or another of the various promises of God to come to the aid of his people, bringing salvation and blessing—promises, as the apostle reminds us, that all find their “Yes” in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). God’s Old Testament people looked for a coming king, as so many of the prophetic titles were bound up with the promised Messiah from the royal line of David. Christians sing these titles with longing for our King to return for our final deliverance, but with one big difference. Because he’s already come once, we also know his name—Jesus. And we know he is Immanuel, “God with us,” always; we have his word on that.

As you pray, thank Jesus for being with you.

Listen along: O Come O Come Emmanuel – Lauren Daigle, O Come O Come Emmanuel – The Kingdom Choir.

About the Author

Rev. Dave Bast retired as the President and Broadcast Minister of Words of Hope in January 2017, after 23 years with the ministry. Prior to his ministry and work at Words of Hope, Dave served as a pastor for 18 years in congregations in the Reformed Church in America. He is the author of several devotional books. A graduate of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary, he has also studied at both the Fuller and Calvin seminaries. Dave and his wife, Betty Jo, have four children and four grandchildren. Dave enjoys reading, growing tomatoes, and avidly follows the Detroit Tigers.

This entry is part 1 of 25 in the series Carols and Lessons