Having recently lost someone dear to me has shifted my focus to beyond the grave, where I imagine him filled with the peace and joy he longed for. It increases my own longing for heaven, too, although I hope to stick around for a good long time! Thankfully we don’t have to wait for eternity, to be with the Lord.
Jesus comes here, right where we are, to be with us.
I’m listening to O Come, O Come Immanuel a lot these days, especially to the soaring, achingly beautiful violin and piano instrumental version from Casting Crowns.
I know the lyrics well enough that my subconscious fills them in while I enter the music and let it lift my heart. Each verse is based on one of the “O Antiphons” that frame Mary’s Magnificat canticle at vespers from December 17 – 23.
If you let them, the O Antiphons can work like a liturgical reset button. Whether your days from now to Christmas are hectic and crowded, or lonely, or pulsing with joy, praying with these short phrases can gather up your emotions and point them toward the Christ child. Like a last-minute countdown, they cry out for Jesus to come with his mercy and love—each night using a different name that reflects both Old Testament longing and our hopes today.
It’s worth taking time to savor these antiphons each day, even if you don’t pray vespers. You might say them with the Magnificat before you go to sleep. Or sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel with your family at dinner: each verse describes one of the antiphons. Or take a few minutes in the morning to read the antiphon* and meditate on one of these Scripture passages that reflect its meaning:
O WISDOM OF OUR GOD MOST HIGH,
GUIDING CREATION WITH POWER AND LOVE:
COME TO TEACH US THE PATH OF KNOWLEDGE!
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
O LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL,
GIVER OF THE LAW TO MOSES ON SINAI:
COME TO RESCUE US WITH YOUR MIGHTY POWER!
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:13)
Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
O ROOT OF JESSE’S STEM,
SIGN OF GOD’S LOVE FOR ALL HIS PEOPLE:
COME TO SAVE US WITHOUT DELAY!
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.[b]
And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth. (Isaiah 11:1-4)
O KEY OF DAVID,
OPENING THE GATES OF GOD’S ETERNAL KINGDOM:
COME AND FREE THE PRISONERS OF DARKNESS!
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government will be upon his shoulder,
and his name will be called
“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”[c]
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom,
to establish it, and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and for evermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
O RADIANT DAWN,
SPLENDOR OF ETERNAL LIGHT, SUN OF JUSTICE:
COME AND SHINE ON THOSE WHO DWELL IN DARKNESS AND IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH.
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned. (Matthew 4:16)
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
O KING OF ALL NATIONS AND KEYSTONE OF THE CHURCH:
COME AND SAVE MAN, WHOM YOU FORMED FROM THE DUST!
And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:17-22)
O EMMANUEL, OUR KING AND GIVER OF LAW:
COME TO SAVE US, LORD OUR GOD!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.[a] 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; 3 and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them;[c] 4 he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:3-5)
Come, Lord Jesus!
© 2022 Sarah Christmyer
* Traditional O Antiphons cited here are from Catholic Blessings and Prayers as quoted on usccb.org.)
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This post is modified from one that appeared here on 12/17/2018 as Is He Here Yet? Calling for Jesus with the O Antiphons.