Today’s Word from Sheila Weidendorf…

O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

O come, o Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily,
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o/er the grave.

O come O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death’s abode.

O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light.

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! Emmanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

Today I want to share one of my all-time favorite Advent hymns with you: O Come, O Come Emmanuel. The text hails from an 8th-century poem and the tune (Veni Emmanuel) was part of a 15th-century French Fransiscan Processional mass. Our translation was by J.M. Neale (1818-1866), a prolific translator, editor, and writer. He was ordained in the Church of England but poor health kept him from parish ministry. He made significant contributions to hymnody with his translations from Latin and Greek and other languages.

This hymn is, first, rich in metaphor. See the many names of Christ here, linking Jesus to his physical ancestry, his spiritual lineage, and his role in the human world as part of God’s creation:
Immanuel (God With Us)

Son of God
Wisdom (The Divine Shekinah)
Lord of Might
Branch of Jesse
Key of David
Bright & Morning Star
King of Nations
King of Peace

That’s quite the impressive resume, and rather encompasses the entirety of Jesus’ curriculum vitae, as it were (I only question the “Lord of Might,” as Jesus COULD be impassioned in his actions, i.e. clearing the temple, but did NOT claim any sort of earthly “right of might” kingdom!). Within these few verses Jesus is hailed as deliverer from both exile and death, teacher, GuRu (one who dispels darkness and leads us to the Light), comforter and, finally, the great unifier of all peoples on an earth with no more division. Whew! Just a few things to do in your coming 32 years on Earth little-baby-Jesus-about-to-be-born… but hey, no pressure!

As much as I appreciate this text, I am perhaps more enchanted by the hollow, simple, perhaps mournful but definitely soulful tune. I admit—I am a sucker for a good Medieval or Renaissance tune in a minor key. There’s something so penetrating in its simplicity that speaks directly to the soul, that doesn’t circumvent or bypass the human condition which includes sorrow and pain and grief and all the rest. Of course, there is a time for everything under the sun—joy and sorrow, celebration and lamination, anguish and ecstasy.

And then there’s the time for waiting. The time for patience and for not knowing and preparing anyway and allowing—kind of like birth itself. Babies are born, after all, when they’re darned well ready to emerge from the warmth and safety of the womb out into the human scene. Of my five children, three arrived basically according to predicted time, while two of them (Babies # 3 & 4) took their own sweet time. And I still remember every minute of the waiting, the preparing, the not knowing, and then… the births.

Advent is about birth, after all—about something new entering the world. Something fresh and at once familiar and yet totally strange. In his time and place, Jesus brought a motion and energy and a consciousness not before evidenced—not even conceivable actually! God joining humanity in humble station, at once offering a taste of what could be true for all people—we can all be evidence of God on Earth, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. It is not in the clouds somewhere. No—God resides in us, among us, between us, in our preparations and our lamentations and in our joys and in our birthing pains.

We are Children of God making holy what we can. Our offerings to this world can all be meditations, be prayers, be healing forces and glimpses of Light. For as we wait for the Christ Child to be born to Mary, we can open ourselves to the Christ Light being born in us. Let us welcome that Light together! Veni, Veni….

Here is a link to my rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel on my YouTube Channel.

Sheila Weidendorf