“Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.”
As we begin another Advent season, I think we are all missing being together for worship in the sanctuary of the church. Of the many things I miss about being together, being part of a singing congregation in a full sanctuary is what I am missing most as we start Advent.
There are not all that many Advent hymns in our United Methodist Hymnal, but one that we would typically sing during the early weeks of Advent is Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus. This short two-verse hymn was written in the late 1700s by the prolific hymn writer Charles Wesley. The hymn has not changed much through the centuries, with the exception of one word in the first verse. Somewhere along the way, the word ‘relieve’ was changed to ‘release.’ So, the line reads, 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.
The word change reminds us that Jesus is the long-awaited, hoped-for Messiah; the set-apart anointed one; the one who has come to free us from all our fears and the bondage of our sin and those things that distract us from living fully as the people God created us to be.
The words of this hymn prompt our hope for the promise of Christ coming into our world and into our lives to transform human life in the present. This hymn is so relevant for this year of 2020 and for this Advent season as we long to be ‘set free from our fears.’
Even though we won’t be singing this hymn together in a full sanctuary this Advent, I do invite us to use the words of the hymn as an Advent prayer as we wait for the coming of God among us as Emmanuel—God with us. As we enter into these Advent days, may the words of this hymn remind us of who we are waiting and preparing for and why.
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.
May these words be a blessing as we wait once more with longing hearts for the coming of Christ.