Christmas Night 2022

Christmas Crib 2016The Church’s liturgy in the week before Christmas relies very much on the oracles of the Prophet Isaiah.  In the Year 740 BC Isaiah received his commission in the Temple to warn of the fall of Israel and of Judah and the punishment for the nation’s infidelity.  But there would be raised up among them one who would save them from their fate.  This would be the Messiah.  Through the prophecies of Isaiah, people began to expect and understand something of the one who was to come.  Isaiah became known as the greatest of the Messianic Prophets.

Of course, understanding of the nature of the Messiah was very not clear but Isaiah presented different titles for this Messiah, titles which were attractive and relevant to a people lost and in need of a Saviour.  The titles given to the one who was to come were many but the ones we know best are; ‘Wisdom’, ‘Adonai’, Stock of Jesse’, ‘Key of David’, ‘Rising Sun’, ‘King of the peoples’ and ‘Emmanuel’. 

Over the last two thousand years Christians have iterated the longings that the Israelites had and even today the Faith and Prayers of our brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith are looking for the signs of the Saviour to come.       

For over twelve centuries these titles of the Messiah have been used in the liturgical prayer of the Church when we place an ‘O’ before them and address the title as a person.  The ‘O’ antiphons for us address the person of Jesus.  Each is based on the prophecy of Isaiah.

Wisdom.  O holy Wisdom, you govern all creation.  Give us the spirit of wisdom and of understanding (Is 11:2-3)

Adonai. O sacred Lord who showed yourself to Moses and gave him the Law, stretch out your hand and lead us to obey you commands.  (Is 3:1-8)

Stock of Jesse.  O Blossom from the root of Jesse who will become great, do not delay anymore come to rule us.  (Is 11:1)

Key of David.  O key of David, what you open no one can close again.  Come to free us and open the door to heaven. (Is 42:6-7)

Rising Sun.  O Radiant Dawn shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death.  Let your great light shine on us.  (Is 9:1-2)

King of all Nations.  O King, keystone of the human race, make us all one, bind us together.  Turn swords into ploughshares.   (Is 28:16)

Emmanuel.  O Emmanuel, King and Lawgiver, come and be with us, set us free.   (Is 7:14)

In many ways the struggles of people in those days of Isaiah resembled those of our own time.  There were corrupt leaders, there was exile and injustice and political intrigue.  Isaiah’s poetry and writing and vision gave real hope to a people sincere in their search for a saviour and in their devotion to God. 

The saviour who was foretold by Isaiah would come from God, would be one of themselves, would be born of a young woman, he would be a light in darkness and a leader with majestic stature.  But, they hardly had any understanding of what ‘Emmanuel’ could mean.

Because we, Christians, have been blessed with Faith and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are able to understand, commemorate and celebrate the reality of ‘Emmanuel’.  God-is-with-us.

The WORD who was with God from the Beginning was God. 

That Word has become flesh, has become one of us and is living with us. (John 1:1-18)

The prophecy of Isaiah and the Prayer of the ‘O’ antiphons have been fulfilled; 

Emmanuel , king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Saviour of all peoples has come and set us free.

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to people who enjoy his favour.