Story Behind The Song: “O Come, Emmanuel”
Why just “O Come, Emmanuel,” and not “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel?” Because! Pretty much, that’s why. And I’ve again taken some liberties with the tune, so I saw it fitting to slightly alter its title. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite Christmas carol. But, depending on the day and what I had for second breakfast, I might say this is my favorite.
Much like “In The Bleak Midwinter,” it conveys the passage of time, the melancholy, and the desperation Jesus was born into. But what sets this one apart is its triumphant undercurrent. The momentary major lift, and immediate return to a minor chord of the chorus lyric, “Rejoice! Rejoice!” so beautifully captures the human condition, and the hope so many of us find in the Christmas story. Amazing, that single repetition of a word set to contrasting chords, as if to say, “Yes, life is beautiful!” and at the same time, “Yes, life is very hard!” I believe every one of us can relate on a very intimate level to Israel’s proverbial wandering and impatient waiting. For me, the answer to that longing, that almost intangible need, begins with the story of Christ’s birth.
Like most of you who are married, I use different words to refer to my wife besides her first name - sometimes she’s my bride, other times my companion, the future mother of my children, my encourager, my biggest fan, and even my Queen! But the truth is, she’s all that wrapped into one. For the same reason, each of the verses of this carol uses a different name for Christ: Emmanuel, Root of Jesse, Dayspring, Key of David, and so on - and each name opens up a Pandora’s Box of meaning. Instead of doing all eight verses, I relied again on my trick of letting the bridge fill in the gaps. But certainly the most meaningful of these is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”
Speaking of my wife, she did an incredible job in her directorial debut on the video for this song. We found an old church in the Mississippi Delta last summer to shoot it in, just the two of us.
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