O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! is one of the oldest songs heard during the Advent season. The roots of the music of go back to the 15th century.1 The Messianic titles in the lyrics, called the O Antiphons, are from the Old Testament, and their use in liturgy goes back to the 8th century and may have been in use as early as the 6th century.2
“The first letters of the titles taken backwards form a Latin acrostic of “Ero Cras” which translates to “Tomorrow, I will come,” mirroring the theme of the antiphons.”3
O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
O Adonai (O Lord)
O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
O Clavis David (O Key of David)
O Oriens (O Dayspring)
O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
O Emmanuel (O God is with Us)
Start with Emmanuel and go backwards through the Latin names, taking the first letter of each to form the phrase, “Ero Cras.”
In the December 2010 Jews for Jesus newsletter, Ceil Rosen described a high school chorus Christmas program in which she sang O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! She wrote, “Though we had rehearsed those words many times, I suddenly found myself pondering their meaning. Was there something true about Jesus being for us Jews?” “Then I Met Messiah” is her story.
As you hear this song and sing it at Christmas, remember these same words have been used by Christians for well over a thousand years to worship the Lord Jesus.
“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel….”
David’s harp & crown, Saint James the Greater Catholic Church (Concord, North Carolina) – stained glass: Nheyob. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
The video features scenes from The Nativity Story as Selah sings O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!
Christina Sonnemann is both harpist and vocalist in this video.
1O come, O come, Emmanuel, Tunes: Veni Emmanuel, Representative Text, Hymnary.org
2, 3O antiphons: Wikipedia.
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