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
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (Charles Wesley, 1744)
This Advent hymn has always been one of my favorites. It is a hymn of longing, of pleading with God to come. I would argue, more than ever, this hymn is even more timely in 2020. We again come to God and ask Him to prepare our hearts so we can “prepare him room” – room to move and work in our lives. It is easy to move past the preparation, to the event. No one needs any help being too busy to rush through and miss the Advent season to prep, cook, decorate, get the ‘right’ thing, clean, party, sleep…
Maybe this year could be different, though. Maybe, with the push for end-of-year quotas, buying gifts, and a pandemic to boot, maybe our hearts will be drawn even more to the wonder of Christmas. A right focus will cause the right preparation.
But do we really believe the promise is true, that Jesus came to rescue us? Do we really believe… that He will? Since Adam and Eve were driven from the garden all those years ago, mankind has been asking ourselves, “Who is the Rescuer?” We argue with ourselves and self-doubt creeps in. “But you don’t understand what I’ve done. I’ve made a mess of my life.”
Yes, you have, but in the words of Jesus Himself: “Come and see.” Come and see that over and over again, God comes and enters into the messes we have made and restores His people. He restores hope. After the flood, the destruction of the whole earth, God promises his people that he will preserve them (Genesis 6). With no way around God’s command to sacrifice his son Isaac, the son He gave them in their old age by a miraculous conception, God provides a ram and Isaac is spared (Genesis 22). Joseph’s brothers are shown mercy and favor despite nearly killing him and selling him into slavery. In the face of certain destruction, Rahab the prostitute, by faith, trusts God and she and her family are saved from the destruction of their city (Joshua 2). Despite the Israelites rebellion and desire for kings to rule over them, God provides his people deliverance from captivity. And there are literally billions more – people you will never meet on this side of eternity, names you wouldn’t recognize if they were told to you – who by faith trusted God and His promises to save them.
We are captives all. We are in bondage to our shortcomings in our jobs, in our finances, in our parenting. We are held captive by addictions, by weights that slow us down (Hebrews 12:1), and of course to our own sin. Which is what makes Advent so vital. Christmas Day – that glorious (albeit) quiet night in a borrowed cave behind a full inn – when the King came to us. Emmanuel, God with us! Advent should be a time to push back from telling God what it is we want. Like the Israelites asking God for a king, we want the rescue on our terms, but we need the rescue God offers. We need the peace He brings.
Further Reading: Romans 15:13
Reflection: Where have you made a mess of things? That is exactly where God wants to enter into your life. With truth, grace and hope. Will you allow Him in to restore what is broken this season?