Every time we see our granddaughter, the first minutes are taken up with a clamor of voices. “Good morning! How’s my little poppet?” “Hi Sweetness, hello Sunshine. “How’s the pretty baby?” Grown-up faces crowd around her, smiling, praising her red cheeks, her new tooth, the way she waves. Instinctively, we use the high sing-song of baby talk. And we rarely use her real name. Instead, we out-do one another in nicknames that get at her sweetness and the indescribable joy we feel in her presence.
I thought of that yesterday as we said the Alleluia verse at mass:
O Root of Jesse’s stem, sing of God’s love for all his people: Come to save us without delay!
It anticipates that evening’s “O Antiphon,” which calls out to the “Root of Jesse’s stem” — Jesus — to hurry and deliver us. Tonight, our cry is “O Key of David … come and lead to freedom the prisoner who sits in darkness!” For seven days leading to Christmas, the entire Church cries out to Jesus to hurry and save us. Each time, we use a different name that highlights a different aspect of his mercy and love. The names draw on Old Testament images of messianic hope:
December 17: O Wisdom of our God Most High
O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High and, reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly. Come, and teach us the way of prudence!
December 18: O Leader of the House of Israel
O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and on Mount Sinai gave him your law. Come, and with outstretched arm redeem us!
December 19: O Root of Jesse’s stem
O Root of Jesse, you stand as a sign for the peoples; before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay!
December 20: O Key of David
O Key of David and Scepter of the House of Israel; you open and no man closes; you close and no man opens. Come, and deliver from the chains of prison those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!
December 21: O Radiant Dawn
O Radiant Dawn, Splendor of Eternal Light and Sun of Justice: come and shine on those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!
December 22: O King of all nations
O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of all, you are the cornerstone that binds two into one. Come, and save man whom you fashioned out of clay!
December 23: O Emmanuel
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the nations and their Savior. Come and save us, O Lord our God!
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The One we yearn for has been longed for and expected and foretold for generations. He came 2,000 years ago as a baby in a manger. And in a few days he’ll come to us again, pink cheeked and wrapped in his mother’s loving arms, filled with promise and hope.
As I think of the way we greet our grandbaby, this outpouring of names awakens in me a desire for Christ. It opens my eyes to WHO this long-expected baby is. I, like Israel of old, need saving. I need light and freedom and the security of someone strong WITH ME. Emmanuel, “God with us,” come without delay!
© 2016 Sarah Christmyer
Read more about the O Antiphons here
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