Praying the O Antiphons of Advent
O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel! (LSB 357 v. 1)
For more than a thousand years, the Church has been praying the “O Antiphons of Advent” as they marked their time of waiting in anticipation of the coming Messiah. For the days from December 17 to 23, Christians have historically read, prayed, sung, and meditated on these antiphons as part of their Advent preparation. The antiphons are most familiar as the basis of the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (Lutheran Service Book 357). The antiphons are printed in the hymnal immediately following the hymn verses.
The texts of these antiphons draw on the Old Testament prophecies about the promised Messiah. In our waiting for the Messiah’s Second Advent, it is good for us to be reminded of the themes that each antiphon emphasizes and how Christ is the embodiment of those ancient promises. Christ is Wisdom incarnate (O Wisdom) as all things are ordered and held together by Him. He is also the Lord (O Adonai) who redeems Israel by leading with a strong arm and an outstretched arm. This descendant of Jesse (O Root of Jesse) and David (O Key of David) would be both a sign of God’s promise coming from the Davidic line and to set free those held in bondage to sin. Jesus Christ is indeed the light of the world (O Dayspring) who comes for those who have been living in darkness. He is also the King of the nations (O King), whose reign is eternal and over all things. Finally, Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, (O Emmanuel), who deigns to come among us and to save us. For a more in-depth treatment of each of these antiphons, consider listening to Pastor Will Weedon’s explanation of each antiphon on (https://issuesetc.org/tag/o-antiphons/).
In these last few days of Advent, may you be blessed with time to pray and meditate on the promises of God that are fulfilled in Christ Jesus. The O Antiphons can be a blessing to your daily devotional time as you consider how God has been at work to fulfill His promise to save His people from the very beginning. Through the Law and the Prophets, the prophecies all point forward to the fulfillment in Christ, Emmanuel who has come to save us. God’s blessings on your Advent meditations and may you find comfort in the One has come, who comes to us now in Word and Sacrament, and who will come again in power and glory!
Prayer - Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers and to lighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan