O Come, All Ye Faithful

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Luke 2:15

The focal prayer of Advent is: "Come, Lord!" Remembering the yearning of Israel, we prepare to celebrate the first coming of the Messiah at Christmas. We also look forward to his second coming. And we invite him to come into our lives through his Spirit, bringing forgiveness, healing, calling, and power for service.

The beloved Christmas hymn, "O Come, All Ye Faithful," is also a song about coming. But now, the invitation is not for the Lord, as in Advent, but for God's faithful people.

"O Come, All Ye Faithful" is a translation of a Latin hymn Adeste Fidelis. The precise origins of the original hymn are not known, but it was probably written by John Francis Wade in the middle of the eighteenth century. The Latin version, or at least the first two words, meaning "come you faithful ones," is familiar to many of us today, partly because it has been covered by people like Andrea Bocelli, Bing Crosby, and Nat King Cole. The most popular English translation was done by Frederick Oakeley in 1852.

"O Come, All Ye Faithful" draws us into the Christmas story in Luke 2:8-16. In this beloved passage, angels appear to shepherds, glorifying God because of the birth of the Savior, the Messiah, who lies in a manger in Bethlehem. After the angels leave, the shepherds decide to go to Bethlehem in order to find the Christ child. They may very well have said to each other things like, "Come, let's go to Bethlehem. Let's come and behold the King of Angels." But, now, our beloved Christmas hymn invites all of God's faithful to come, including you and me.

Of course, we cannot literally visit Jesus in the manger. Even if we were to visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the place where Christian tradition believes Jesus was born, we wouldn't find a babe lying in a manger. But, we can come to Bethlehem in a sense. We can come in our imaginations as we allow the Christmas story to inspire us. We can come as we reflect on the miracle of Jesus, "Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing." And we can come in worship, adoring Christ, once born in a manger, once living on earth as a sign of God's kingdom, once dying on a cross for our salvation, once raised from the dead on Easter, now reigning in heaven, welcoming us into his presence, ready to come again and complete his work of establishing God's kingdom.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How would you feel if you were one of the shepherds who heard the angels on that first Christmas night? In what ways will you come to behold and adore Jesus this Christmas?


O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!
Glory to God
In the highest:

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing!

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord. Amen.

"O Come, All Ye Faithful," Latin original by John Francis Wade (c. 1743), English translation by Frederick Oakeley, 1852.