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O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,

the hope of the nations and their Savior:

Come and save us, O Lord our God.

On December 23, 2021, the seventh and final O Antiphon climaxes these pleas for deliverance. As if to augment Yahweh’s power even more, previously used Messianic titles are added to Emmanuel, found in Isaiah 7:14.  

Emmanuel, a prophetic name meaning God-with-us, first appeared in the prophecy of Isaiah, 736 BCE, when enemies of the Judean King Ahaz sought to destroy Jerusalem…the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel—A mysterious prophecy that still seizes the imaginations of believers, an intimacy that whispers in all life forms.

Yet, how access this power to waylay enemies, wherever discovered? Evil is real; ancient Israelites as well as ourselves have always needed guidance and protection.  On our own, this is impossible.

Again, the imperatives, Come and save us, conclude this O Antiphon and prepare us for the celebration of the full Christmas mysteries.

Indeed, God is intimately with us—that never changes.

A solitary cardinal alighted on the plank fence in my back yard, its redness quickening my heart. Then, it whizzed down upon the bleached grass, its dark eyes searching from side to side. Like a wise professor attired in the scarlet robes of a theologian, it discerned the next step before taking it boldly; then, more angular steps. Then, it was gone. I blinked, hard.

Stillness enveloped me. I had been visited and I knew it. Rather than resume my work in the kitchen, I savored this intrusion.

The cardinal’s fiery presence recalled images of Christ Pantocrator (the Lawgiver), rendered in mosaics or frescoes, which adorn domes and apses of medieval Eastern Orthodox churches. The dark outlines of Christ’s iconic eyes, his red tunic, his left hand holding the jeweled book of the New Testament, his right hand raised in blessing—Such was the demonstrable power that had inflamed centuries of imaginations of worshipers, huddled in the nave below, whispering their prayers.

Such still has the holding power to thwart evil, with its allure of dark power. Willingness to follow the Pantocrator’s sway freshens us with loving care and protection.

You Tube’s three stanzas of the anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” moved me deeply, its one hundred-year-lyrics still sung in Black Churches, in Black History Month seminars, and other events. The anthem’s vision speaks to those willing to listen: a plea for Liberty to the God of silent tears.

The dismal failure of the Civil War Post-Reconstruction in late nineteenth-century America compelled James Weldon Johnson, lawyer, school administrator, prolific writer, and poet in Jacksonville, Florida, to compose these lyrics. Tears flooded him after listening to his brother’s rendering them in the word-painting technique: the melding of images upon the soulful melody in A flat major, often used in spirituals.

“ Lift Every Voice and Sing” was first presented to honor the1900 visit of educator Booker T. Washington to the Black school, Stanton, where Johnson was principal. Those five hundred singers, many becoming teachers, carried the anthem with them, and taught other classrooms, which, in turn, spread this vision of hope.

In 1919, the NAACP proclaimed, “ Lift Every Voice and Sing” the Black National Anthem of America; it also spirited the1960s Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King.

YouTube carries several versions of this stirring anthem.

Available on Amazon

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