“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (O Antiphons)

Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 23, 2018

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (O Antiphons)

The Hymn of the Day today for this Fourth Sunday in Advent is hymn 357 in Lutheran Service Book, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Please turn there now and maybe even mark it with the ribbon, because we’ll be referring to it throughout the sermon.

You’ll notice on the page facing the hymn that there is a heading, “The Great ‘O’ Antiphons.” And there you will see seven such antiphons, listed by date, starting on December 17 and ending today, December 23. They’re called the “O” Antiphons, because each one starts with an “O,” which you use when you’re addressing someone, followed by a particular title addressing Christ: O Wisdom, O Adonai, O Root of Jesse, and so on. And they are antiphons, which are little framing verses used in the liturgy. In this case, they were used to frame the Magnificat, during Vespers over the last seven evenings before Christmas Eve.

Now if you compare these “O Antiphons” to the hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” you will see that these seven antiphons were the basis for the seven stanzas of the hymn. The only difference is that we sing the Emmanuel hymn stanza first, whereas the Emmanuel antiphon actually comes last–today, on December 23.

The O Antiphons are prayers to Christ, in anticipation of his coming at Christmas, each one using a different messianic title. These titles each have their own background in the Old Testament, and they are fulfilled in the New Testament in the coming of Christ. And so there is a message for us in these seven antiphons, because each one tells us something about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And who Jesus is, and who he is for us, makes all the difference in the world–indeed, in this world and the next. So let’s find out what that message is. And, in fact, there is even a hidden message here, which we’ll get to at the end.

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Published in: on December 21, 2018 at 10:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“O Emmanuel, Come” (Matthew 1:18-25)

Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 19, 2010

“O Emmanuel, Come” (Matthew 1:18-25)

And now we come to the last of the seven O Antiphons, “O Emmanuel.” You see it there in your hymnal, on the page facing the hymn; it’s the one listed for December 23. You’ll find it also in your bulletin. So let’s pray this “Emmanuel” antiphon together: “O Emmanuel, our king and our Lord, the anointed for the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God.”

This word “Emmanuel”–it sounds familiar enough, but what does it mean? The word “Emmanuel” with an “E” is just the Latin spelling of the Hebrew word “Immanuel.” And in Hebrew it goes like this: “Im-manu-el.” “Im” means “with.” “Manu” means “us.” And “El” means “God.” So “Im-manu-el,” literally, “With us, God.” Or to put it a little more smoothly, “God with us.”

That’s what the word “Emmanuel” means, simple enough. But what does it mean in the larger sense to have God with us? How does that happen? Is it good or bad, to have God with us? Is that a scary or a comforting thought? What does it mean for our lives that God is with us? Those are all questions to ponder when we pray this prayer, “O Emmanuel, Come.”

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Published in: on December 19, 2010 at 1:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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“O King of the Nations, Come” (Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23; Ephesians 2:11-22; Matthew 28:18-20)

Third Week in Advent
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

“O King of the Nations, Come” (Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23; Ephesians 2:11-22; Matthew 28:18-20)

In our Advent series on the O Antiphons, today we continue with “King of the nations.” You’ll find it there in your hymnal or in the bulletin. Let us pray this antiphon together: “O King of the nations, the ruler they long for, the cornerstone uniting all people: Come and save us all, whom You formed out of clay.”

Now this title for Christ, “King of the nations,” is sometimes also referred to as “Desire of nations,” not that the word “king” means “desire”–it doesn’t–but that this king who is coming would be the one that the nations will desire. That’s how the hymn stanza we just sang uses it: “O come, Desire of nations, bind,” etc. And that idea is there in the antiphon itself: “O king of the nations, the ruler they long for,” and so on. You often see the term “Desire of nations” used in hymns and devotional literature throughout the history of the church. It means Christ as the coming king whom the nations will desire.

The term “Desire of nations” is based on a verse from our reading from the Old Testament prophet, Haggai, the verse that reads, “And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts.” How this passage came to be applied to Christ the coming king as the Desire of nations–that’s what I’ll explain now.

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Published in: on December 15, 2010 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“O Dayspring, Come” (Malachi 4:1-6; Luke 1:67-79; Revelation 22:16-20)

Third Sunday in Advent
December 12, 2010

“O Dayspring, Come” (Malachi 4:1-6; Luke 1:67-79; Revelation 22:16-20)

The fifth of the seven O Antiphons is our theme for today, “O Dayspring, Come.” You see it there in your hymnal, as well as in your bulletin. Let’s begin by praying this antiphon together: “O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

The term “Dayspring” is not a word you hear every day. But you are hearing it on this day. We just sang, “O come, Thou Dayspring from on high.” And it comes up in stanzas in two other of our hymns today: “Ah! Thou Dayspring from on high,” we sang earlier; and “Dayspring from on high, be near,” we’ll sing later on. But that’s about it, as far as the exact term is concerned. You don’t even find “Dayspring” in any of our readings today.

Ah, but then again, you do! In our Gospel reading, toward the end, where it says, “whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high,” in another translation it reads, “whereby the dayspring from on high.” Both are translating the same word, with the same meaning; one just says “dayspring”; the other says “sunrise.”

And that’s the sense. “Dayspring” simply means “sunrise,” or “the rising sun,” “the sun rising in the east,” that sort of thing. And so you do see the idea of “Dayspring” running throughout our hymns and readings today, in many places. For example, in the reading from Malachi, it says, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” There “the sun of righteousness” equals “dayspring.” Or in the Book of Revelation, where Jesus says, “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star,” “bright morning star” is saying the same thing as “dayspring.”

So this is a thoroughly biblical concept, to apply the term to Jesus, and thus the origin of our antiphon, “O Dayspring, come.” And these readings will tell us how it applies, and what Christ being the “dayspring” means for us.

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Published in: on December 11, 2010 at 11:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“O Key of David, Come” (Isaiah 22:20-25; Revelation 1:12-13, 17-18; 3:7-13; Luke 1:26-33)

Second Week in Advent
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

“O Key of David, Come” (Isaiah 22:20-25; Revelation 1:12-13, 17-18; 3:7-13; Luke 1:26-33)

O Wisdom, O Adonai, O Root of Jesse. And now today, O Key of David, the fourth of the seven great O Antiphons. You see it there opposite Hymn 357, and it’s also in your bulletin. So let’s begin by praying together the Key of David antiphon: “O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, You open and no one can close, You close and no one can open: Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

What is this “Key of David” antiphon all about? It’s about authority, and who it is that’s using it, and how he’s using it. That’s the “key” to understanding this antiphon.

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Published in: on December 8, 2010 at 11:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“O Root of Jesse, Come” (Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 1:1-17)

Second Sunday in Advent
December 5, 2010

“O Root of Jesse, Come” (Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 1:1-17)

Today we continue with the third of the seven O Antiphons of Advent, these prayers addressing the coming Christ. This one begins, “O Root of Jesse.” You see it there on the page facing Hymn 357, as well as in your bulletin. Let us now pray this antiphon together: “O Root of Jesse, standing as an ensign before the peoples, before whom all kings are mute, to whom the nations will do homage: Come quickly to deliver us.”

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Published in: on December 4, 2010 at 11:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“O Adonai, Come” (Exodus 3:1-15; Revelation 5:1-14; John 8:48-59)

First Week in Advent
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

“O Adonai, Come” (Exodus 3:1-15; Revelation 5:1-14; John 8:48-59)

Today we continue with the second of the seven O Antiphons of Advent, “O Adonai.” You can see it there in your hymnal, opposite Hymn 357, and it is also printed in your bulletin. Let us pray that antiphon together: “O Adonai and ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai: Come with an outstretched arm and redeem us.”

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Published in: on December 1, 2010 at 10:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“O Wisdom, Come” (Proverbs 8:12-31; Colossians 1:15-20, 28; 2:2-3; John 1:1-5, 9)

First Sunday in Advent
November 28, 2010

“O Wisdom, Come” (Proverbs 8:12-31; Colossians 1:15-20, 28; 2:2-3; John 1:1-5, 9)

The Advent hymn we just sang, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” goes back about 900 years, to the 12th century. But the texts on which this hymn is based go back a few centuries before that, even–maybe 1200 years ago or more. They are known as the Great “O” Antiphons, and you can see them printed there on the facing page in your hymnal (LSB 357).

What is an antiphon, you ask? An antiphon is a little framing verse that is sung before and after a canticle or a psalm. These O Antiphons were chanted before and after the Magnificat at Vespers during Advent. There are seven of them, and historically they were used over the last seven days before Christmas Eve Day, in other words, from December 17 through December 23. We’re going to use them before then, over our seven Advent services beginning today, the four Sunday Divine Services and our three Wednesday Vespers. This will give us a continuing theme running through our observance of Advent this year: “The Seven Great ‘O’ Antiphons.”

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Published in: on November 27, 2010 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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