2020 Advent Devotional – Day 4


O Come O Come Emmanuel
Latin, c. 12th century; translator: J. M. Neale
Additional verse, translated by Rev. Henry Sloane Coffin, 1916

“Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.”

Video: O Come O Come Emmanuel


“O Come O Come Emmanuel” has a long-established place in the history of Christian liturgy and worship. The translated hymn that we sing today evolved over many centuries from a series of chants sung in the week preceding Christmas, and there are indications of this practice going back as far as the 8th or possibly even the 6th century.

This connection with chanted liturgy can be heard in the musical setting used in our contemporary worship, with its slow and deliberate pace; almost as though the prayers of Christian worshippers reach out to us across the centuries and invite us to unite with them.

A much-needed invitation, for the people of God are still captive today; held prisoner by the “envy, strife and quarrels” referred to in the second verse of this arrangement. As the lyrics suggest, too often bitterness still sits in our hearts, fostering anger and discord. In our homes, as much as in our communities, friction flares and resentment takes root; scores are kept and bridges burnt. The idea of coming together in “one heart and mind” can seem almost as remote as the 8th century itself.

This is – to quote the title of the poem by Howard Thurman – “the work of Christmas.” Yes, it’s easier to skip straight to angels singing of peace and good will, effortlessly descending on us from on high. This hymn reminds us that it’s not that simple; that while we await the return of Jesus, heaven’s peace must also emerge from our hearts, must be our desire.

And so, we call to Jesus – Emmanuel – to be with us, to sustain us and to strengthen us. And we rejoice in the promise of Christmas that even in the depths of our hurt, God is with us, tending our hearts, soothing our pain, and bringing us closer to know heaven’s peace.

Further reading on the history of this work:

Nurturing God,
Be in my heart today that I might know your peace. Whenever I let anger take hold, calm my spirit to recognize your care for all your children. Whenever I give way to rage, remind me that even those I resent are precious in your eyes. Let your love rise up in me and flow into the lives of those around me, that the world may indeed be filled by heaven’s peace. Amen.


O Come O Come Emmanuel

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.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2021.

  • Advent Email Retreat

    Sign up to receive daily devotionals throughout Advent.

    * indicates required

  • Advent Devotionals