O come, O come, Emmanuel ???
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, O come, Emmanuel (literally “God with us.”)
This familiar hymn is sung nearly every Sunday during the Christian season of Advent, the four weeks of waiting prior to the celebration of Jesus’s birth. The hymn is based on the prophecy of the birth of a boy to be named Emmanuel, who will carry the government on his shoulders, as recorded in the Old Testament book of Isiah. According to the New Testament Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus was born. The words of the prophecy are familiar to most of us from George Frideric Handel’s magnificent oratorio, Messiah.
However, in the context of the Book of Isaiah, the first verse of this hymn refers to a national leader, one who will free the pre-Christian Hebrew nation from their captivity. It is only in some of the later verses that the hymn could be inferred to point to an Emmanuel that will save us from hell and ensure our entry into heaven. It is this meaning which gives rise to the use of the hymn by the Christian church during the season of Advent.
O come new leader that we hold so dear.
And free us from our ills and all our fears.
Discouraged? YES! But soon we will be blessed.
You’ll fight for us; you told us you know best.
Rejoice; Give thanks; our lonely wait is o’re.
You have arrived upon our careworn shore.
My rewrite of the first verse of the hymn is my interpretation of how I think many of us view our soon-to-be 45th President, Donald J. Trump. It seems to me that many are so enamored with Mr. Trump that they see him as the “savior” of America, the person who will set us free from all of the problems that he proclaimed during the campaign. President-elect Trump claims that we are (in essence) in bondage to other nations, nations whom he says are taking advantage of us. He has promised to take decisive action to undo the international entanglements that he believes the US is caught in, and to dismantle or dramatically change the governmental programs that so many find onerous. Therefore my rewrite of the lyrics could be words of hope for those who support Mr. Trump, the kind of leader that the ancient Hebrews longed for.
But my alternate words might be read as sarcasm by those who disagree with our President-elect’s understanding of America’s current programs, policies, and foreign alliances. For those who are looking for a different kind of “savior,” my words and their juxtaposition of current politics with ancient theology could be seen as blatantly irreverent, although they are not meant to be so.
O come, O come, Emmanuel.
O come, O come, be with us God ???
The answer to that question depends on which Emmanuel you are looking for, and which Emmanuel you are expecting.
– a leader who promises to reclaim our national pride and fight against our foes, both domestic and foreign,
– or a spiritual leader who champions inclusion, peace, and forgiveness as Jesus did,
– or perhaps both,
– or perhaps neither.