1 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!
2 Sing, choirs of angels; sing in exultation;
sing, all ye citizens of heav'n above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest![Refrain]
3 Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be all glory giv'n!
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing! [Refrain]
Source: Hymns to the Living God #131
|First Line:||O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant|
|Title:||O Come, All Ye Faithful|
|Latin Title:||Adeste Fideles|
|Author (attributed to):||John Francis Wade|
|Translator:||Frederick Oakeley (1841; alt)|
|Meter:||Irregular with refrain|
|Place of Origin:||Latin|
|Refrain First Line:||O come, let us adore Him|
There is a sense of urgency to this hymn. Imagine a child, tugging at your hand, saying insistently, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” In the same way, imagine someone pulling at your sleeve or grasping you by the hand, half dragging you as they run through the crowd, saying over and over again, “Come!” We are told that patience is a virtue, but in this case, impatience is a beautiful thing. For who could stand by and wait when all we want to do is worship our Lord and Savior? Albert Bailey writes, “The poet takes us by the hand and leads us with triumphant song to the cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem, shows us the Babe, and bids us adore” (The Gospel in Hymns, 279). This hymn invites us to sing with the angels, sing with our families, sing with our fellow believers, and with every fiber of our being, worship Christ the Lord.
The Latin text, “Adestes Fideles,” was written by John Francis Wade sometime between 1735 and 1740. His text was translated multiple times, but the translation by Frederick Oakeley is now the almost universal text. A version by Jean Francois Borderies, comprised of the original first verse and four verses written by Borderies, is sung in France. Not every hymnal includes all the verses – Worship and Rejoice and the Baptist Hymnal, for example, do not include the verse beginning “God of God, Light of Light eternal.” The United Methodist Hymnal includes the Latin translation of verse one and the refrain, as well as two verses not found in other hymnals.
ADESTES FIDELES was formerly known as PORTUGUESE HYMN because it was often sung in the chapel of the Portuguese embassy in London. It’s assumed that since the tune was found in a manuscript with the text, dated in the mid-eighteenth century, Wade both wrote the text and composed the tune. Paul Westermeyer notes that this tune, with the repetition of the last line, and the irregular 87 87 47 meter, was “quite remarkable as early as 1744,” and Wade was probably inspired to repeat the last line by the light folk operas of the day (Let the People Sing, 194). This tune and text are sung together universally. David Willcocks wrote a magnificent descant, typically sung on the third stanza, with an alternate organ harmonization supporting unison vocals on the fourth.
This hymn is wonderful accompanied by a choir and many instruments, but its simple melody and beautiful harmonies also make it perfect for light instrumentation and dominant vocals. It’s sung most often at the beginning of a Christmas Day service, but it would also be quite profound at the close of a Christmas Eve service as a hymn of anticipation and excitement with which we go forth into the night before Christmas. The refrain of the hymn, the repeated “O Come, let us adore him,” can be sung as a call to worship throughout the year, often with the added repeated lines, “We’ll praise his name forever,” “We’ll give him all the glory,” and “For he alone is worthy.”
Laura de Jong, Hymnary.org