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O Come, O Come

For centuries the ancient church has called upon God to come.  This is the main theme during the season of Advent – a Latin word that means coming.  The three-fold theme is how God came to us as a baby in Bethlehem at the first Christmas, into our hearts by the Holy Spirit through his word, and as the King of the Universe on the Last day.

Many of the songs were antiphons – from the Greek words for “Opposite or against” and “voice”.  It is still common today for a Psalm or song to be sung antiphonally, that is, as a call and response.  A soloist will sing the verses of a song and the congregation will sing the refrain.

One of the most famous Advent songs is O Come, O Come, Emanuel.  There are a number of things that make this song fascinating.  First off its origins can be traced back to the 6th century.  The church has assigned one verse to each of the seven days before the Christmas festivals on December 17th through the 23rd.  Each of the verses calls upon God to come and save his people using different names that God gives himself in the Bible.

One example is The Key of David.  There are references in Isaiah concerning this name.  Jesus also talks about the keys of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16.  Jesus is the one who opens heaven to all by the forgiveness he won for us by his suffering, death, and resurrection from the dead.  He gives his church these keys so that when we forgive (or unlock) someone, it is as if Jesus himself was standing before the sinner offering absolution.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to you, oh Israel!