The O Antiphons are based upon the song O Come, O Come, Immanuel.  They look at the biblical narrative – watching the story that God was writing all along.  They look at different “names” for God within the longing story of waiting for the Messiah.

O come, O come, Immanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orders all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Wisdom is strongly associated with creation. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth….He created in an orderly fashion (progressively creating for six days and then a day of rest) and with that established continuity, purpose and function for all of creation. The ancients took seriously the thought that The Lord, by wisdom, founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens (Prov. 3:19). And so we are reminded also that, In the beginning was Jesus…and that everything was created through him: nothing – not one thing- came into being without Him. (John 1) We also remember that Jesus himself has become to us wisdom from God (I Corin. 1:30).

The “wisdom writers” remind us:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! (Prov. 3)

Action:  take 10-15 minutes to be quiet and listen.  Kneel, or sit, or lay down, but take the time to listen to God.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

The ancients give us our response to this God of Wisdom. If we choose to bow to His wisdom, then we choose to call Him Lord. We get this picture of Lord from the book of Exodus. Half the book is a gripping narrative of an obscure and severely brutalized people who are saved from slavery into a life of freedom. The other half is a meticulous, some think tedious, basic instruction and training in living the saved, free life. The story of salvation is not complete without both halves. You see we need both. We may see God’s order and purpose in creation and our lives, and may well want to participate with him in it. But God, as Master Designer, has also made clear that life with Him needs instruction and training and obedience.

God gives an invitation to His people Israel to participate in salvation (God doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves), first through their imagination and then, if they will, by faith – with their total lives in response to God. This Exodus story shows us how God continues to draw men and women in trouble out of the mess of history into the kingdom of salvation.

So where does that leave us? Perhaps our counterpart would be the book of 1 Peter. “As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy”…You call out to God for help and he helps – he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living. (1 Peter 1)

Holiness is the most attractive quality, the most intense experience we ever get of sheer life – authentic, first hand living, not life looked at and enjoyed from a distance. We find ourselves in on the operations of God Himself, not talking about them or reading about them. Holiness is a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it. And holiness begins with a life that proclaims that Jesus is LORD.

Action:  write down (on small pieces of paper) areas that you tend to take in your own hands, then squeeze them in your hands, ask God to help you to give them to Him, and then release them into some sort of container.

Rod of Jesse/Key of David
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

We’ve witnessed creation – a saved people/given the Law –destruction to their own desires, but hope yet remains…..

Why Jesse and David? Remember the Israelites after a few generations had looked around at their neighbors and realized all their neighbors had kings. They too wanted a king…but wait, they already had one. God was to be their king. He was to rule in their midst. When Samuel heard their demand – “Give us a king to rule us” – he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God. And God answered Samuel “Go ahead and do what they’re asking. They are not rejecting you. They’ve rejected me as their King. From the day I brought them out of Egypt until this very day they’ve been doing it to you. Let them have their own way. But warn them of what they’re in for. Tell them the way kings operate, just what they’re likely to get from a king.” (I Samuel 8

Their first king didn’t work out. He chose not to follow God and went mad. Their second – David (Jesse’s son) – ushered in the “golden years” of Israel. Solomon amassed great wealth and glory for the nation, but he openly defied God and after him, the nation split in two. Both parts of the nation were plagued with a series of many bad, evil kings interspersed with a few good ones. The nation is divided; the northern tribes are conquered by the Assyrians and the southern tribes 120 years later are led off into captivity by Babylon. It is a miserable time in the history of Israel.

But not all hope is to be lost. The imagery of a root, and a rod emerges. Although the “tree” has been cut down to a stump, there is yet hope. There will be a restoration and God, although He seems to have forsaken his people to their enemies, will call to himself a new and fruitful people. (Although in Jesus, it may not look like we think it would). The same is true with the imagery of the key. Though enemies have overrun Israel and they seem to be locked out of their home, God will raise up a Deliverer/King – “I will place the key of the house of David (a untied kingdom) on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open…..and…. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (Is. 22:22 and 9:6)

Imagine your world ripped apart, your home taken, your family separated or killed and you are moved to another place to serve people of other gods.

Action:  find some plant bulbs; plant them in soil or in a jar with water and rocks.  As the roots grow let them remind you to pray that God would free us from those things which so easily trap us.

Day Spring
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

We have seen in history the Creator and Orderer of all things, the Lord who gives instruction in Living, as the Root and Key that brings hope when enemies have prevailed over us, and now we see Him as Light.

We see two polar events in the history of the Hebrew people: the Exodus from Egypt was a definitive story of salvation into a free life. God delivered His people and offered them life as their Lord. The next story is Exile. Exile is the definitive story of judgment accompanied by immense suffering. It is a time of devastation and lament. It is a terrible experience. And that is where we find ourselves…

Darkness has overtaken the land and people of Israel. Their ancients lament what has happened to these chosen ones. (Jeremiah 1) Feel it.

But once again, God delivers a message of hope as His people remember what Isaiah had said. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who lived in a land of deep shadows – light! Sunbursts of light! (Is. 9) – read whole chapter.

Action:   go outside at night into the darkness. You may walk or sit or whatever, but you must be in darkness. Be silent. Pray. Think about darkness and the fear it brings. Then imagine light entering your darkness and how you would feel.

Desire of Nations
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace

As we reach the end of the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophets seem to declare a day when God shall come and establish His kingdom here. When all nations shall be ruled by Him and when peace and justice and mercy and goodness shall be the long. Israel longed for that day for they had been treated so mercilessly and unfairly from the governments over them. For God to come and rule once more among His people, that would be a glorious day indeed.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; and the government shall be upon His shoulders. They shall call Him Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Is. 9:5).

And “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. (Is. 2:4)

Action:  make necklaces out of string and a huge hexnut (from Home Depot).  Wear it, and each time it hits your chest, let it remind you that the world weighs heavy on God’s heart.

O come, O come, Immanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Immanuel has come to thee, O Israel.

Think about it. For thousands of years, using his wit and charm, man had tried to be friends with God. And for thousands of years they had let God down more than they had lifted him up. They’d done the very thing they promised they’d never do. It was a fiasco. Even the holiest of the heroes sometimes forgot whose side they were on. Adam, clothed and hiding from the Creator, Moses throwing his staff and a temper tantrum took matters into his own hands. King Saul looking into a crystal ball for the will of God; David caught looking, lusting, wanting, taking, and murdering, and a nation of chosen ones who killed God’s prophets and worshiped other gods over and over and over.

And so after 400 years of God’s apparent silence in Jewish history, He makes His loudest and most profound statement. He comes to be with His people. (Think of the absurdity!!) He comes to bring His kingdom. He comes to fulfill all He has revealed about Himself and more. He is Creator, Lord, Hope, Light, Life and He has come to the very world that will still reject Him!!!!

Action:  take communion together

May this Christmas be one in which you celebrate the incredible reality of God coming into human history. May you celebrate His birth and His life and the difference it makes that He came. May He be to you this season, your Creator, your Lord, your Hope, your Light, your King and the fulfillment of your greatest desires.

(many passages taken from The Message by Eugene Peterson)