Advent Song Cycle, Week 2 – REJOICE

The second week of Advent, December 4 – 10

This Week’s Song: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” verses 1 & 2    

This song is #56 in our church’s hymnal. 

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, 

That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, thou Wisdom from on high, who orderest all things mightily.

To us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!


EMMANUEL is a Hebrew name that means, “God with us.” 

This is an old song! The words are based on a poem that might be as much as 1500 years old. The tune is from the 15th century, about 600 years ago. We usually sing this song (and its many verses) spread out on the Sundays of Advent, as we light the Advent candles at church.

The verses of this song are based on the O Antiphons, which are an ancient Christian text, going back perhaps as far as the 500s. They are a series of verses for the days before Christmas, calling on Jesus to come and save us – and using different images from the Bible to describe Jesus, like Wisdom, Key, Dayspring, and so on. They are called the “O Antiphons” because each one starts with the exclamation, O!  There are some O Antiphons in our Advent prayer booklet. 


How to say “Rejoice” in American Sign Language… Hold your hands in front of your shoulders, palms towards you, fingers together and thumbs up. Then make a circle outward with your hands and bring them back to place, twice.

ASL is an expressive language! Show joy with your movement and your face. 

Note there are several versions of this sign; this one seems to be the most common. Here’s a video!

BONUS ACTIVITY: Celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas!

Santa Claus is based on a saint – a man named Nicholas who was a bishop, a church leader, in a city in Turkey, about 1700 years ago. December 6 is the feast day for Saint Nicholas. One custom is for children to leave out their shoes on the night of December 5 – and find them filled with candy the next morning. Chocolate coins are a good St. Nicholas Day gift – in memory of how St. Nicholas shared coins with those in need! 

Here is the beginning of a story about Nicholas, written by Rev. Miranda’s mother, Pamela Grenfell Smith:

Long before your grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents were born, back when years were counted in only three numbers, in the city of Myra there lived a fine and generous Bishop named Nicholas. He was in charge of every church in Myra – every single one. He lived in a fine house in the nicest part of town, and he never had to worry much about money. When he could not finish his dinner he would say to his cook, “Here, Cook, give these leftovers to some hungry family.” If he had old clothes he would say to his washerwoman, “Here, Washerwoman! I don’t need these things any more. Let them be given to some poor fellow!”

Every year on Easter Sunday a grand procession of deacons, acolytes and torch-bearers paraded out of the great church at the top of the hill and all around the streets of the city. Bishop Nicholas walked at the end of the procession, the position of greatest honor, wearing a splendid cloak of silk brocade and carrying a mighty silver-and-cedarwood staff. On these occasions, if he saw beggars in the streets he would tell his deacons, “Come, brothers, toss those poor souls a coin or two.”

Oh yes, Nicholas lived in comfort and ease, but it was his daily habit to turn his heart and mind towards the great mystery at the center of all things, the mystery that loves us and knows our names. This mystery was working a change in him. As Nicholas sat down to his meat and wine he found himself wondering if anyone in the city of Myra had only a crust of bread for dinner. As he went to sleep in his soft bed with its warm woolen blankets, he wondered if anyone in Myra had to sleep on the hard, cold ground…

To read the rest of the story and learn more about St. Nicholas, go to . 


Joy is a special feeling. The American Psychological Association defines joy as “a feeling of extreme gladness, delight, or exaltation of the spirit arising from a sense of well-being or satisfaction.” It’s different from happiness, although they are related. The author J.D. Salinger wrote, “The most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy is a liquid.” One of the things that is special about joy is that we can feel joy at the same time as we feel more negative emotions, like grief or pain. 

The author Ingrid Fetell Lee has spent several years investigating joy and where people find joy. Here are some of the kinds of experiences that many people find joyful. Read over the list; does it bring any joyful moments to mind? 

  • Abundance – lushness, multiplicity and variety
  • Freedom – nature, wildness, and open space
  • Harmony – balance, symmetry, and flow 
  • Play – color, bubbles, whimsy
  • Surprise – contrast and novelty
  • Transcendence – elevation and lightness
  • Renewal – blossoming and expansion 


PRAYER PRACTICE for this week…

Naming Joys. 

Joy is holy; it’s something that God wants for us. Noticing where there is joy in our lives can help us feel gratitude – and be more alert to opportunities for joy.  You can reflect on these questions quietly, discuss them with a friend or family member, or write or draw your responses. 

  • What’s a recent joyful moment that comes to mind for you? (Maybe the list above made you think of one!) 
  • Who are the most joyful people in your life? 
  • What activities bring you the most joy?
  • Are there places – in your daily life or in the wider world – that you connect with feelings of joy? 
  • Can you name a big, special joy?
  • How about a little, everyday joy? 

HANDS-ON PROJECT: Plan and do something that gives you joy!

Think of something you would really like to do, either on your own or with your household or a loved one or friend. It could be an outing – or a special treat – or a small project that would feel good to do. Here are some ideas: 

  • Go for a walk in a new neighborhood and look for Christmas lights. Take a canine or human friend with you! 
  • Look for an exhibit in a local museum that catches your attention, or seek out some wonderful art online, and spend time taking it in.
  • Cue up some music that you really enjoy listening to. (Maybe you could share a few favorite songs with a friend, and ask for theirs!) 
  • Make plans with a friend or loved one to play a game, meet for a treat, or do a simple art or craft project together. 
  • Dive into a really good book, TV show, or movie. It’s OK if it’s one you’ve already seen or read, as long as it’s something that gives you joy. 

Make a concrete plan to do something, even if it’s not this week, and try to follow through. 


These texts offers another perspective on Advent/Christmas joy. 

Poem: The Glory, by Madeline L’Engle

Poem: Mary’s Dream, by Lucille Clifton

An Orthodox prayer to St. Nicholas

Let us all say: Rejoice, O guardian of the people of Myra,
Their head and honored counsellor, 
The pillar of the church which cannot be shaken.

Rejoice, O light full of brightness, 
That makes the ends of the world shine with brightness. 

Rejoice, O divine delight of the afflicted, 
The fervent advocate of those who suffer from injustice.

And now, O all-blessed Nicholas, 
Never cease praying to Christ our God 
For those who honor the festival of your memory with faith and with love. 

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!”

– Martin Luther King, Jr., April 3, 1968