Dear WC friends,
Greetings on this second Sunday of Advent. I hope your day has had moments of rest and renewal. In Advent, we’re encouraged to consider certain texts of scripture and hymns.
“Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.”
In 1744, Charles Wesley penned these familiar words to this powerful Advent hymn, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” Second only in popularity to “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” this hymn reminds us of the long awaited return of Jesus. In fact, Advent is a looking forward with expectation of that time when Jesus will return and looking back at a journey to Bethlehem to celebrate His birth. Both expressions find voice in this powerful hymn.
Charles Wesley was moved by the words of Haggai 2:7: “And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.” After reflecting on this text, Wesley began to imagine what the birth of the Christ child might mean to his community, indeed, to the entire world. In England in the mid 1700’s many were suffering in hunger and poverty. Children were abandoned and left as orphans. There were class distinctions, and slavery was on the rise.
In spite of the bleakness of the conditions around Wesley, a thread of hope began to emerge in his mind as he thought of Jesus’ birth. He found himself hoping for the return of Christ, likening that thought to the expectation of Haggai as he looked forward to the birth of Christ. In that hope, he wrote the expectant words of this hymn.
Come thou long-expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s Strength and Consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art; Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever, Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit, Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
Wesley understood the power of the Christ to set people free. Jesus is the fulfilling of prophecy and the answer to the problems all of us know, as well as to the world. The hymn embraced both the loving nature of Christ and the power of that love to deliver the world from sin and suffering. Ultimately, it was the love of Christ that would change the hearts of people into being more Christ like.
The year 2020 has been a year of waiting. And while we wait expectantly for some semblance of normalcy—in respect to the pandemic of Covid-19, the healing of relationships due to political divisions in the land—we are reminded in the biblical texts for the Season of Advent that wilderness is a part of the journey to Bethlehem. John the Baptist quotes Isaiah in John 1:23, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
We have felt some sense of wilderness this year. Sometimes our wilderness is of our own making. At other times wilderness visits us and thrusts us into an unfamiliar place emotionally and sometimes physically. In that space, we hold on to one another even when we are distanced. We love each other well by distancing and mask-wearing. We stay connected via prayer, texts, emails and calls. We trust that God is with us. We trust that God is calling us to a deeper walk in this wilderness time.
We pray, come thou long expected Jesus.
During these different and difficult days may the God “who came and comes in Jesus,” free us from all that binds us and may our hearts and lives truly rest, increasingly, in Him.
With Every Blessing,