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.
For the decades leading up to the turn of the millennia, the people of Israel had looked for their Messiah to come. They expected him to ride in on the clouds of heaven at the head of angel armies. They expected him to free them from the oppression of colonization and foreign rule. They expected him to be the descendant of the great military leader, David.
What they did not expect was a little, tiny, helpless baby. What they did not expect was a freedom not only from the oppressions in this life, but also from the powers of evil beyond it. What they were not looking for was the descendant of the shepherd-boy, David – born to shepherd the children of God.
These lyrics, written by Charles Wesley in the 18th-century, have been set to two major tunes. My personal favorite is the Hyfrydol, because it is also the tune of one of the best hymns ever written about our God: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. The words entreat our Lord to return to all of God’s beloved – the descendants of Israel, and the other children of God who have been grafted into their tree. It emphasizes the essential meaning of the word advent: “coming.”
Even as we rejoice at the baby’s arrival, we are also looking to the skies for the day when Christ returns. This hymn helps us to see the past, present, and future that are always held in tension for followers of Christ. We are to be about the Kingdom work, even when, like the Israelites, we do not know when our God will arrive.
Let this, then, be our prayer: 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 along; by thine all sufficient merit raise us to thy glorious throne.
Reverse Advent Calendar: Collect diapers, wipes, and feminine products for a local emergency shelter throughout the season. Most shelters for Women and Children are in great need of these items. Always remember that Jesus was born on the move and laid in a manger because there were not enough supplies for him.