O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Story Behind The Song

Some sources place the origins of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” as early as the 6th Century, well over a thousand years ago. It has ties to the ancient “Antiphons,” one of which was sung in medieval churches each night of the week leading up to Christmas.

Snowy mountain topEnglish priest John Mason Neale translated a version of the original Latin humn, “Veni, veni Emmanuel,” sometime around 1850 into English as the song we know today.

The music that we associate with “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” was added in 1851 when Thomas Helmore published it along with Neale’s lyrics in “Hymnal Noted.” Up until that time the tune was known as “Veni Emmanuel.”

The song itself is a carol of the advent of Jesus and is set in an Israel that still waits for the coming of the Savior and fulfillment of God’s promise. The music and lyrics are at once haunting, melancholy but also optimistic and hopeful.

My favorite recording of this carol did not have a video associated with it, so I made my own. Here’s Margaret Becker with “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” which was first included on the album “Christmas” which featured a number of artists on the Sparrow record label.

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