O Come O Come Emmanuel Hymn

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel - Introduction of the Hymn

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel – Introduction of the Hymn
This is The Hymn of the Week with Dr. Larry Frazier—presenting the good news in song, combining faith and everyday experience.

Welcome to The Hymn of the Week. According to the New Testament, Christ and his disciples sang a hymn after their last meal together. The basic doctrines of Christianity were well established in manuscripts dating from the first three centuries. However, it was not until the eighth or ninth centuries that a system for notating music was developed.

This week we will consider a hymn set with music from these roots. It was compiled, translated and made accessible for English-speaking Christians by the efforts of 19th-century scholars and musicians. This hymn—O Come, O Come, Emmanuel—is…The Hymn of the Week!

Click Below for O Come,
O Come, Emmanuel Lyrics

O Come O Come Emmanuel Lyrics Graphic Template

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel: Hymn of the Week Radio Show Episode

Reading of O Come,
O Come, Emmanuel Lyrics

(Stanzas 1-3)

O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, o Israel.

O come, thou wisdom from on high;
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, o Israel.

O come, thou rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, o Israel.

(stanzas 4-6)

O come, thou day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, o Israel.

O come, thou key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, o Israel.

O come, o come, great lord of might,
Who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, o Israel.

(stanzas 7 & 8)

O come, thou root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of thy people be.
Before thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on thy mercy call.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, o Israel.

O come, desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our king of peace.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, o Israel.

And now, let us hear our hymn as sung by the choir of the Church of the Ascension & St. Agnes

Background of
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is a compilation of Latin antiphons—verses spoken or sung around passages of scripture. By the twelfth century, antiphons became standardized as a response to the song of Mary—the “Magnificat” from Luke’s gospel.

Translated into English

These antiphons were first arranged into a hymn published in the German city of Cologne in 1710. Subsequently, this hymn was translated into English by John Mason Neale in 1851. Ten years later it was altered for inclusion in the London, first edition of “Hymns Ancient and Modern.”

Awareness of the Season of Advent

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” has now achieved world-wide popularity. Most significantly, it has brought increased awareness of the season of Advent as a preparation for Christmas.

Neale (1818-1866) translated almost 400 hymns and authored the children’s Christmas carol, “Good King Wenceslas.” Son of a Church of England clergyman, he earned baccalaureate and masters degrees from Cambridge. There, he developed interests in the study of ancient hymns and architecture.

After ordination as priest and liturgist, his health prevented him full full-time pastoral duties. But he was influential in instigating architectural reforms leading to renovation of many English churches. He also helped establish the St. Margaret’s Society, the first Anglican order of nuns dedicated to serving the poor.

Neale's Hymn Translations

In addition to “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, Neale translated another Christmas favorite, “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.” He also translated “Jerusalem the Golden,” “Come Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain” and “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation.” Finally, “All Glory Laud and Honor,” is perhaps, the most widely sung of all his hymn translations.

And now, let us hear “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” as sung by the a capella men’s ensemble, Chanticleer.

Background of the Tune

15th-Century French Franciscan nuns paired the tune, “Veni Emmanuel,” with the funeral hymn “libera me” (“deliver me”). Thomas Helmore (1811-1890), Anglican clergyman and music master, discovered this setting. He arranged the melody as a setting for John Mason Neale’s translation, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Shortly thereafter, he included this pairing in his hymn collection, “Hymnal Noted, Part II," published in London in 1856.

Thomas Helmore, Scholar and Musician

Helmore was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he earned baccalaureate and masters degrees. A most influential scholar and musician, he was appointed master of choristers of the Chapel Royal in 1846. He first collaborated with Neale on a collection of Christmas carols published in 1853. With his arrangement of “Veni Emmanuel,” Helmore introduced and brought plainsong chant into the mainstream of hymnody.


Plainsong is a form of chant employing a single melodic line or parallel melodies in intervals of fourths or fifths. As early as the eighth or ninth centuries plainsong enhanced the projection of liturgical texts in worship. Plainsong melodies have an emotionally-restrained smooth, regular flow in free metrical form based on the rhythm of the text.

Meter of "Veni Emmanuel"

Helmore arranged “Veni Emmanuel” into stanzas of four lines of eight syllables each plus a refrain. The refrain included two lines of eight syllables. Therefore, he created a hymn with a total of six lines of text with a meter notated

Other examples of the relatively few hymns in this meter, include “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” set to the tune “Melita,” and “Faith of our Fathers” and “Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me,” set to the tune “St. Catherine.”

And now, let us hear the tune, “Veni Emmanuel,” as played by the Joe Alessi Trombone Ensemble, followed by the Texas Saxophone Quartet.

Devotion or Scripture
Related to the Hymn

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is a beautiful canticle encompassing numerous passages from scripture on the coming of Christ. “Emmanuel” is a Hebrew word meaning “God with Us.” Christians traditionally use the weeks encompassing the four Sundays before Christmas as a time of meditation on the incarnation of “Emmanuel” in the baby Jesus.

Song of Mary

Many non-Christians join Christians during this time in the exchange of gifts, parties and expressions of good will. But Christians joyfully proclaim the song of Mary, Mother of Jesus, from the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…For the mighty one has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”

And now, let us hear our hymn as presented by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Robert Shaw.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Hymn of the Week. Tune in again next week when we will consider another great hymn.

Until then, this is your host, Dr. Larry Frazier…

Goodbye, and keep singing!

About the Author Larry Frazier

Larry spent 24 years teaching music at the University of West Georgia to over 6,000 students. Ten years ago, Larry and his wife Mary Lynn, received comfort, support and inspiration from traditional Christian hymns while she overcame stage-three colon cancer. Larry is on a mission to help you discover God’s incredible power through the intersection of faith and Christian music in your life.