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First published in 1710 in Cologne, Germany; the classic Christmas hymn Veni, Veni Emanuel has been recorded in English as O Come, O Come Emanuel by more than fifty artists and choirs. Enya, Pentatonix, Joan Baez, Linda Rondstadt, Jessica Simpson, Bette Midler, The Carpenters, Wynonna Judd, Whitney Houston, Sugarland (with a banjo) as well as Peter, Paul & Mary—all have their own musical interpretation of …
Veni, veni Emanuel  (O come, O come Emanuel) 
Captivum solve Israel  (And ransom captive Israel) 
Qui remit in exilo  (That mourns in lonely exile here) 
Privatus Deil Filio  (Until the Son of God appear) 

The lyrics’ metrics were first paired with the now famous haunting 15th century French tune in the 1861 
Hymns, Ancient and Modern. The result has become a timeless song that’s easy to sing and to cover by a wide spectrum of artists. But perhaps something deeper than metrics and ancient antiphons explains its broad popularity. Perhaps its plaintive lyrics somehow connects with a reality our hearts know, even while we maintain intellectual deniability. 

One of the very first stories in the Bible tells how Adam & Eve lost their original home, and were never able to find their way back. Exile is a recurring theme in the Bible. Adam & Eve were exiled from Eden. The Hebrew people lived four centuries in exile (and became slaves) in Egypt. The people of Jerusalem were hauled away to exile in Babylon. 

People yearn for home. Even Bedouins and wandering herdsman identify a home range—a place where they belong. Yet most of us never feel totally at home and completely at peace. No matter what we build or buy, there’s always something lacking even in our most comfortable space. This sense of exile explains why we’re so attracted to fantasy worlds like Middle Earth and Hogwarts—we were created for a place with a bit more magic and a lot less misery.

According to the Bible we live in exile. 

This world is not the home God made for us. Jesus came to free humanity from exile, to ransom us from captivity. God’s story begins with Adam & Eve lost in exile. The Bible concludes with the end of humanity’s exile: the Creator returns to His earth, remakes our broken world, resurrects His people and returns us home—His home, the kingdom of heaven. ~

Dan Nygaard