O Come, O Come, Immanuel 5
O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
Hymns help us praise God. They’re shafts of brilliant sunlight through the clouds. They provide an almost mystical connection with the endless anthems of praise, praising at this very moment before the heavenly throne. When first written, the Latin text of the hymn “Veni, Emmanuel” contained seven different verses, or stanzas, each one representing a different view (or name) of the Messiah. It was sung, one verse per day during the last seven days before Christmas. Today, we celebrate “O King of Nations, Our King of Peace.”
And how those words could have been written today! They speak to our hearts as if we prayed for those exact things just this morning: “Bid all our sad divisions cease.” Yet, they date all the way back to the ninth century. They would have been sung in Latin and used in formal Catholic Masses. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” was written sometime during the 800s. We don’t know the actual author, or authors, of the hymn, but the depth of knowledge concerning the Old and New Testaments suggests that it was written by monks or priests.
I wonder if whoever wrote it had words of Ephesians 2 in mind with this theme of the end to discord and disunity. “For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” (v.14) From the Ephesian church, to the author of this week’s hymn, to the church today, there have been and will be times of division within God’s church. And while this is far short of God’s call for us as His people in the world (see John 13:35), in the face of such conflict, we have an opportunity: to invite Jesus, our King of Peace, to come and show us the way of peace; a way made possible through the Cross, where hostility and hatred are put to death.
This hymn itself is a reflection of reconciliation and unity. It was one of the few examples in the 800s that told the story of how the birth and life of Jesus brought together the Old and New Testament hope for a Messiah. It brought the story of Christ the Savior—and His reconciling power—to life during the hundreds of years when little else was available to the common people. As such, I believe, it could really be considered as one of the most important songs in the history of the Christian faith.