Countdown to Christmas: Day 2. Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
– Charles Wesley

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.

Yearning. Craving. Soul-thirst. These are the recurring themes of Advent. In this historic hymn, Wesley celebrates the arrival of the long-expected Messiah. He frames this baby’s birth as a rescue mission. Christ comes, not merely to inspire, but to liberate a people stuck on the margins. Yes, the people of Israel at the time of Christ’s birth hoped for political freedom, an escape from the rule of Rome. But Jesus didn’t meet that specific expectation, so they had doubts about his messianic credentials.

Jesus’s aim in coming at Christmas is bigger than one definition of freedom for one group of people. He doesn’t come to shuffle the political scenario for one party’s preferences. The scope of his redemptive work is infinitely wider; he comes to free us from our fears and sins. 

Have you seen any version of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol? Early in the story, Ebenezer Scrooge has a haunting vision of his late business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley appears wrapped and bound in iron chains and locks. Over the years Marley had been unconsciously creating his shackles, link by link, through his selfishness and cowardice.

And I have too. Decades of self-serving, self-protecting and self-promoting choices will always make us slaves to our worst instincts. Fear and ego become drivers for our choices. Jesus comes at Christmas to release us from these ties. His arrival opens the door for us to find freedom and mercy; he offers to unburden us from the press of guilt. Later in the story, Jesus says “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” 

So yes, “Come expected Jesus, let us find our rest in thee.”

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Craig Custance