It’s the second week of Advent and there is a definite building crescendo of anticipation for Christmas day. It seems as though the seasonal music tends to fuel the anticipation. It is hard to escape because anticipation is part of the human experience. Everyone is looking forward to something.
Last week we focused on the familiar Christmas song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” This week, let’s look at “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” This hymn was written by Charles Wesley, and first published in 1744. Charles Wesley was an English leader in the Methodist movement, and the younger brother of Methodist founder John Wesley. Charles lived from 1707 to 1788.
In the hymn, Wesley wrote phrases such as “dear desire of every nation” and “joy of every longing heart.” Wesley understood that within every person, there is a deep longing to cherish something highly. At Christmas time, I think this feeling becomes recognizably stronger and it brings us to a place where we begin to think about these longings meaningfully.
The world is full of different messages. Some will tell you to indulge these longings until you are the fulfillment of the higher meaning. Some will tell you that there is no higher meaning, that the longing is absurd. Some will tell you that your search is in vain and nothing more than an illusion will be achieved. How can this be? ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ promised that God will be with us. Emmanuel would bring Hope and satisfy our longings to be ransomed from all the “bad” in our lives, in the world. If there is no higher meaning in life, then everything that is in us saying there most certainly is...is a lie, an illusion. Who we are at the core is nothing more than an illusion.
But what if there is a higher meaning?
We long to know that our labors, toil, and suffering are not in vain. This is the call of Wesley’s hymn.
The longings are not only to know that life is not an aimless accident, but that on a practical and experiential level, there are daily anxieties that from which we wish to be free. Jesus came to give rest to the anxious, fortify the fearful, and set the captives free from bondage to sin.
In Jesus, we find rest from trying to validate ourselves. Wesley wrote: “Hope of all the earth thou art.” There is hope for all of the world because of who Jesus is. As we look to the God who is with us, we find God stepping into history as a man to make reconciliation between humanity and Himself, and we find hope for all people.
Advent is the season where we celebrate “God with us.” This is why we can all join together in singing “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” For a more in-depth study on “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” check out the second week in our Advent sermons series here.