O Come, O Come Emmanuel


By Corinne Winter

The following prayer is based on the “O Antiphons,” seven prayers best known today through the verses of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” They became popular during the Middle Ages as prayers calling for the Messiah to “come,” to fulfill God’s promises. They continue to mark our liturgical celebrations, being found in the prayers of the Mass as well as in Evening Prayer of the church. As we anticipate a Christmas like none other in recent history, the O Antiphons seem to provide helpful reminders of the most important gifts, those we need most.

Oh Wisdom, creating and saving Word of God, we need your guidance. Confused by the events we witness and the messages we hear, we easily become wrapped up in a multitude of concerns and forget what is most vital. We may even be attracted by calls to reject certain people because of their beliefs, their skin color or their country of origin. As we celebrate your birth, may we find quiet time to reflect on the saving message you bring: a message of love and good will for all.

Oh Lord, you give the law that sets your people free by binding us to you. Focusing on desires to set our own identities, we allow ourselves to lose track of the relationships that give us life. We begin to see ourselves only as individuals with our own goals, desires and plans. We forget that you have made us to be in union with all creation. May we learn from your life the freedom and joy that are found only in commitment to you and to others.


Oh Root (or Flower) of Jesse, you are a sign of good news intended for all people: news of life from apparent death. Coming from among God’s covenant people, you remind us that to be chosen by you means to be chosen for the good of all. We so often want to cling to privileges that separate us from others. May we learn from you that the way of glory is the way of the cross, the way of solidarity and of total self-gift.

Oh Key of David, you set us free from bondage to sin and death. We are often afraid to let go of the very things that imprison us. Through the work of your Spirit among us may we come to believe that we can be free of sinful attitudes and habits we have developed: free from hatred, prejudice and selfishness. Thus may we help to build the culture of life so desperately needed in today’s world.

Oh Dawn, “reflection of God’s glory (Heb 1:3),” you light up the darkness of our hearts and minds. Come; help us see through all deception especially our own self-deception. May we learn to see clearly the gifts that you have given to us. Seeing them, may we express our gratitude by using them to build your Kingdom.

Oh King of all nations, we so often want to set the rules according to our own biases. May we set aside our need for shallow victories over others. Let us turn to your Word and find therein the way to true joy, a joy that can be found only when we live according to your Law of love and communion.

Oh Emmanuel, God with us, we so often allow the troubles we experience to hide the truth that you are still with us. By your Incarnation, you enter into our world with all its messiness, its pain and its joy. Your coming does not lie only in the past; rather, it is in the present and in the future. By the working of your Spirit you remain in us and among us, drawing us toward a future that you design, a future of joy that is beyond our imagining. Even as we pray for our situation to change, as we suffer the pain of the pandemic and struggle against the odds to build a more just world, may we be sustained by your promises and find peace in your presence.

(Corinne Winter is a professor-emerita of St. Ambrose University, Davenport.)

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