Listen to each of the hymns, including this one, HERE.
Over 700 years before Jesus’ birth, the prophet Isaiah said: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14. Then, in his gospel, Matthew referred to that prophecy when he wrote: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His Name Emmanuel” (which being interpreted is, “God with us.) Matthew 1:23.
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is a hymn favored during Advent. It is a translation of a Latin hymn, “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel.”
The lyrics and melody for “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” emerged independently. The text comes from a 7 verse poem that dates back to the 8th century. The unknown author wrote seven antiphons – short lines to be sung before or after psalm readings. Each antiphon began with “O”. Seven days before Christmas Eve, monasteries would sing the “O antiphons” in a call and response fashion during the vespers, or evening, service. The original melody was a Plainsong or Chant, which is the earliest form of singing in the church.
In 1861, John Mason Neale translated “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” into the version that is most prominent in the English-speaking world although other English translations do exist. Translations in other modern languages are also in widespread use. While the text is adaptable to and used with many metrical hymn tunes, it was first combined with its most famous tune (often itself called Veni Emmanuel) in 1851. Although the composer of the music is unknown, the melody had its origin in 15th century France.
This hymn takes us back to the mindset of old Israel, longing for the first coming of the Messiah. And it serves as our reminder that we are called to eagerly expect and to prepare our hearts and lives for the return of Emmanuel, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.