For hundreds of years in the week before Christmas, the Church has added a verse before the Magnificat(St. Luke 1.46-55)at Evening Prayer. Each of these seven verses consisted of an‘O’ and an Old Testament title which foretold thecoming of Christ, theMessiah. Then, onChristmas Eve an eighth verse, “O Virgo virginum” (“O Virgin of virgins”) would be sung before and after Mary’s Canticle.
Interestingly, within these verses orantiphons, (sometimes called the ‘O antiphons’ or ‘The Great O’s’),there was a secret message. As J. R. Watson, a British hymnologist, points out,the first letter of the second word of each antiphon spells SARCORE. If read backwards, the letters form a two-word acrostic, “Ero cras,” meaning “I will be present tomorrow”.
As Pastor John Piper says, “This translation of an anonymous Latin hymn doubles as a prayer for the first and second coming of Christ. It takes us into the mind of old Israel, longing for the first coming of the Messiah. And it goes beyond that longing by voicing the yearning of the church of Christ for the Messiah, Jesus Christ, to consummate the history of redemption.”
He goes on to point out, from the hymn, that every name for Jesus is full of hope.
“Emmanuel” (Isaiah 8:8) —“God with us” —He will pay the ransom that only the God-man can pay;
“Rod of Jesse”(Isaiah 11:1), springing from a dead stump, He will free his people, by death and resurrection, from Satan’s tyranny, and make them free forever;
“As the Day-spring” (Luke 1:78) —the dawn of God’s kingdom —He will be the light of the world, and banish the hopelessness of darkness;
“Key of David” (Isaiah 22:22) -- He rescues us from hell, locks the door behind us, unlocks the door of heaven, and brings us home;
“Desire of nations” (Haggai 2:7) --He will draw the ransomed from every people and make them a kingdom of peace;
“Lord of Might” (Exodus 19.16) –He first gave the Law at Mount Sinai with thunders and lightnings; and when He returns the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
“In the weeks leading up to Christmas, weput ourselves in the shoes of Zechariah,Elizabeth, Simeon, and all the pre-Christian saints. We ponder the promises. We strain to see the dawn of salvation. But we know that when it comes, the waiting will not be over.“When Emmanuel arrives —when the Dayspring rises —we learn that redemption has only begun. To be sure, it is a magnificent only. The final blood is shed. The debt is paid. Forgiveness is purchased. God’s wrath is removed. Adoption is secured. The down payment is in the bank. The first fruits of harvest are in the barn. The future is sure. The joy is great. But the end is not yet.
“Death still snatches away. Disease still makes us miserable. Calamity still strikes. Satan still prowls. Flesh still wars against the Spirit. Sin still indwells.And we still “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). We still “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7). We still wait for final deliverance “from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). We still “wait for the hope of righteousness” (Galatians 5:5). The longing continues.”