O Antiphons: Day Six, O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law


Warren Cole Smith

For over a thousand years, Christians have sung the O Antiphons in the days leading up to Christmas. Together they comprise a hymn that centers our attention on the glories of Advent and the Incarnation.

From the 17th to the 23rd, we will be sharing the day’s verse along with a short meditation by members of the Colson Center staff.


O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!


Emmanuel means “God with us.” We know “Emmanuel” is one of the names of Jesus, yet this verse plainly says Emmanuel is also our “King” and the “Giver of Law.” These are names for God that we often associate with God the Father, the God of the Old Testament.

We tend to sentimentalize God. In other words, we try to re-make Him in our image rather than conforming our minds and hearts and entire being to the God Who Is There. One of the most common ways of doing that is to brush aside Emmanuel The Law Giver. The law-giving God, we tell ourselves, is the God of the Old Testament. “Emmanuel” is the God of the New Testament, the god who frees us from the law.

We forget that the Lord our God is one God, and we’re to have no other gods–especially not gods of our own imagination–before Him. We forget the Jesus who told us that even lusting was the same as adultery, that one who hates commits murder. In other words, we forget the Jesus who said He came not to abolish the law, but to hold the law in even higher regard–and to complete it and save us from its consequences.

Rightly understood, the law isn’t a burden, but a blessing. It points us to the “Lord our God” who has “come to save us.” As Paul wrote, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” In the very next breath he answers his own question: “Thanks be to God– through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7: 24-25)

Emmanuel the Giver of Law has come to save us indeed. Thanks be to God!

Warren Cole Smith is the President of Ministry Watch.


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