“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”: The O Antiphons, our midweek Advent series

The Advent season rings out with the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  The hymn’s origin is not from Scripture but a series of responses, the “O Antiphons,” spoken by pastor and parishioner, which do come from Scripture.  The hymnic version begins singing about Jesus as Emmanuel.  In the original antiphons, the words spoken about Emmanuel come last, pointing the people to Jesus’ birth.

Though we can’t trace the origin of these liturgical responses, a Roman Christian, Boethius (477-524 AD), mentioned them in his writings.  So, we know they already existed, in some form, in his day.  Perhaps, the roots of the “O Antiphons” go back to the early Church!

Though we, in the West, received them in Latin, the words for each antiphon originated from the Greek-language Old Testament, called the Septuagint.  This served as the Scripture for Jesus and His Apostles.  If you check out the Bible’s New-Testament quotations, they will link back to the Septuagint, not today’s “Masoretic Text,” the basis for the Old Testament we use.

Our midweek Advent services will explore these statements about Jesus.  You can find them in Lutheran Service Book, pg. 357.  In their original order, we will explore two antiphons each Wednesday.  On Christmas Eve, we’ll joy in Jesus as “our Emmanuel, our King and our Lord.”

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