Night Whispers - December 24

Night Whispers Devotional

December 24th

Dream word – SUNRISE

Isaiah 7:14

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” NKJV

Libera me

Last night I attended a typical Christmas carol service. The theme of the short message began with asking the question, “What do Christmas carols say to us?” I found this to be both an interesting general question, and a most penetrating personal question.

As for me, I am mostly unmoved by Christmas carols. I can muster up just enough gusto to sing but one Christmas carol, and that may be but once a year! After that, my yawning boredom closes both my heart and mouth and I long for deliverance. There is however one Christmas carol that I would love to sing daily but because it moves my spirit so much, am rarely able to do so.

The carol I am referring to is most interesting because the tune is in fact taken from a Roman Catholic Requiem Mass. Yes, the tune is taken from a 15th century French Franciscan nun, funeral procession, which in Latin is called the “Libera Me”, or “Deliver me”. How appropriate for bored old me and how amusing, that thousands of jolly carollers are completely unaware that they are in fact singing a funeral dirge! Hilarious!

The word “antiphone” is made from combining two Greek words, first “αντί” meaning “opposite”, and then “φωνη” meaning voice. Antiphone refers to two choirs singing the same musical piece but in alternation. This style of singing is found in the early church, even in Israel of old and most definitely a copy of the heavenly form of angelic style of praise and worship. From the earliest centuries of the church these antiphones have been sung on every Lord’s day evening and what are known as the “O antiphones” have always been sung just during the seven or eight days prior to Christmas.

Each of these “O antiphones” is titled by both one of the names of Jesus and one of His attributes:

December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
December 18: O Adonai (O Adonai)
December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
December 21: O Oriens (O Sunrise)
December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
December 23: O Emmanuel (O Emmanuel)

Now, when taken backwards, the first letters of these seven titles form a Latin acrostic of “Ero Cras” which translates in English to “Tomorrow, I will come”. In medieval times, an eighth antiphone was added, entitled “O Virgo Virginum” or, “O Virgin of Virgins”, with the acrostic now becoming “Vero Cras” or “Truly, tomorrow I will come!”How awesomely wonderful is that!

I am telling you this tonight because the Christmas carol which I would like to sing every day but cannot, is the translation of a 12th century Christian Latin text, which is thought to be a metrical version of a collation of these self-same Advent antiphones. The opening words of each stanza of my favourite carol was originally translated “Draw Near”, today though we are more familiar with the translation which begins, “O Come”. I cannot sing this carol, because my heart fails me by producing fountains of  shuddering tears as my spirit weeps in the deep and desperate longing of the fulfilment of this most marvellous of Christmas carols.

The response of my spirit that the carol “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” produces within me a deep knowledge. Yes, it tells me that though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I am in fact a child of this Great and coming King and that above all things, my deepest being longs for His sunrise to dawn upon my soul. Longs for it I tell you, until I am sick with longing. Tell me tonight, “What do Christmas carols say to you?”

Listen:

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

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

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

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.

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

Pray: Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death, on that awful day when the heavens and earth shall be shaken and you shall come to judge the world by fire. I am seized with fear and trembling until the trial is at hand and the wrath to come: when the heavens and earth shall be shaken. (The English translation of the “Libera Me”.)

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