O Come, O Come Emmanuel [Studio Sessions]

shutterstock_203336374_FotorHere’s the fifth installment of studio session videos from our Christmas album, Prepare Him Room.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel has a rich and varied history. The tune originated somewhere in 15th century France, while the lyrics have their origins in the centuries old O Antiphons, sung or recited by some Catholics and Anglicans at Vespers from December 17 to December 23.

Each verse of the carol focuses on a different title for Christ. Depending on which version you sing, we hail Christ as Emmanuel, Rod of Jesse, Dayspring, Key of David, Desire of Nations, Wisdom, and Lord of Might.

The most common version of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel was translated by John Mason Neale in 1861 for Hymns Ancient and Modern. As I’ve sung it throughout the years, I’ve often wanted the song to reference what Jesus has accomplished, even as we wait for his return.

So for Prepare Him Room, my good friend, Steve Cook, and I set about working on lyrics that focused on Jesus’ role as prophet, priest, and king. We wanted to capture the “already and not yet” dynamic of our salvation. Here’s what we ended up with:

O come, O come, true prophet of the Lord
And turn the key to heaven’s door
Be Thou our comforter and guide
And lead us to the Father’s side
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall by His word our darkness dispel

O come, our Great High Priest, and intercede
Thy sacrifice our only plea
The judgment we no longer fear
Thy precious blood has brought us near
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Has banished every fear of hell

O Come, Thou King of nations bring
An end to all our suffering
Bid every pain and sorrow cease
And reign now as our Prince of Peace
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come again with us to dwell

When we sang this version at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville a couple weeks ago, I was moved by the increasing hope each verse instilled in our hearts as we sang.

The video features Rebecca Elliott on piano and vocal, Devon, my son, on acoustic and vocal, Jared Torrence on drums (who since this video broke his hand…), Noah Welch on bass, Neil DeGraide on electric (also the producer of Prepare Him Room), and Emily Donovan on violin.

And if you haven’t seen it already, check out the accompanying Prepare Him Room family devotional by my good friend, Marty Machowski.

(Image courtesy of Renata Sedmakova from Shutterstock.com)

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11 Responses to O Come, O Come Emmanuel [Studio Sessions]

  1. Chris McDougall December 7, 2014 at 4:13 AM #

    Sounds terrific, Bob! I also really enjoy the lyrical additions. I don’t think a lot of modern worship leaders do this enough, repurposing a worship song based on situation, moment, or culture of a congregation. Instead there’s often a “me too” aesthetic where churches have to recreate something that’s already been done. Great job!

    • Bob Kauflin December 7, 2014 at 7:23 AM #

      Chris, thanks for your encouraging words. I’m always a little nervous when we change lyrics to a familiar hymn or carol. I grew up Catholic so didn’t know a lot of the more common Protestant hymnody, so I used to change lyrics quite freely. Now I’m more hesitant to do it, but actually have a stronger conviction that it should be done for the reasons you cite! I’ve seen a number of hymns tweaked, but I’m not always sure of the purpose behind it. Thanks again for your encouragement.

  2. Jerry Kauflin December 7, 2014 at 7:47 PM #

    That is a beautiful arrangement of that hymn.

  3. Lindele December 8, 2014 at 8:26 AM #

    We sang this yesterday at my church. It’s one of my favorites on the CD. I love the new lyrics and the chords. I also taught God Made Low and plan for us to sing both of those at our Christmas Eve service. Thanks for such a great CD!

    • Bob Kauflin December 8, 2014 at 9:12 AM #

      Glad you’re enjoying the album and that it’s serving your church, Lindele!

  4. garlicmom December 15, 2014 at 2:58 AM #

    I am always disappointed to people changing the lyrics that others have written. (In this case it’s just an old translation–though a commonly used one). There are just so many other options for creating music that “fits the culture” of a particular church -including writing a new piece. It can also be jarring to those of us who know our Christmas carols by heart and want to sing along. I know people see this issue differently and I view your organization with charity-believing your intent is the glory of God.

    • Bob Kauflin December 15, 2014 at 8:23 AM #

      Garlicmom, thanks for commenting. I agree with you that there are plenty of new songs still to write! But composing new lyrics for a familiar tune has geen going on for centuries. It enables people to proclaim truth together more quickly than if they had to learn a new melody. And of course, people can keep singing the old lyrics!

  5. Jon Kim December 14, 2016 at 6:47 PM #

    Where can we get the Strings music sheets or charts?


  1. O Come, O Come Emmanuel | Saved To Be Changed - December 6, 2014

    […] The latest video from Sovereign Grace’s new Christmas album, Prepare Him Room, is their beautiful arrangement and adaptation of “O come, O come Emmanuel.” Bob Kauflin has just posted a helpful piece explaining the history and lyrical focus of the carol, which you can read here. […]

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