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Nov 2011

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

And I will shake all nations, so that the desire of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts. – Haggai 2:7

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus is perhaps one of my favorite Advent songs. Written by Charles Wesley in 1744, it focuses on the “long-expected Jesus” who was born to set us free from sin, and to bring us salvation by His death. Here are the lyrics:

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.

Joy to those who long to see thee, Dayspring from on high, appear;
come, thou promised Rod of Jesse, of thy birth we long to hear!
O’er the hills the angels singing news, glad tidings of a birth;
“Go to him, your praises bringing; Christ the Lord has come to earth.”

Come to earth to taste our sadness, he whose glories knew no end;
by his life he brings us gladness, our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend.
Leaving riches without number, born within a cattle stall;
this the everlasting wonder, Christ was born the Lord of all.

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 own sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Wesley did not want to just paint a picture of Jesus in the manger; he wanted the entire Christmas story to have a personal application. Wesley wanted to impress upon God’s people that Jesus is not only the “desire of every nation,” but is also the personal “joy of every longing heart.” Jesus has the “government on his shoulders,” but he was born to reign personally “in us.”

If we are not careful, we will miss much of the meaning that this song so lyrically conveys. The first verse focuses on the fact that the coming of Jesus Christ fulfilled Israel’s longing for the Messiah. A few of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled are Isaiah 7:14, which spoke of a virgin giving birth to a child whose name would mean “God with us;” Isaiah 9:6, which told of a child whose name would be called “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, eternal Father, the Prince of Peace;” and Micah 5:2, which said that from Bethlehem would come a ruler whose “goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”

These and many similar prophecies looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, and many devout Jews prayed earnestly for the day when He would arrive. Luke 2:22-38 tells of Simeon, a man of faith who was “looking for the consolation of Israel.” When he saw Jesus as an infant, Simeon knew that this Child was the fulfillment of his messianic hope. Charles Wesley was borrowing from this passage when he described Jesus as “Israel’s strength and consolation” in the song.

Although He fulfilled Israel’s prophecies, Jesus came to bring salvation to the entire world, which is what Wesley was referring to when he described Christ as the “hope of all the earth” and the “dear desire of every nation.” More than that, He is the “joy of every longing heart.” He alone is the one who can satisfy every soul.

The last verse then goes on to tell us why Jesus can meet our expectations: He was “born a child and yet a King.” As the One who is both God and man, Jesus was able to satisfy God’s wrath completely by dying on the cross for our sins. When Wesley wrote about Jesus’ “all sufficient merit,” he was referring to Christ’s ability to bring us to salvation.

This Advent season, we will be singing an arrangement of Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Red Mountain Music, off their album Silent Night. You can listen and download their version here.

imagrs

4 Comments

Jeanette Taylor

December 3 2013 Reply

This version of this old advent hymn was sent to me via facebook from a friend in our church. I am choosing the songs to lead worship this Sunday and will definitely be including this one. Thank you.

Josh Drew

December 3 2015 Reply

Thank you for this helpful post. This level of thoughtfulness is refreshing and God honoring.

Levi Fortner

November 29 2017 Reply

Where did you happen to find the middle two verses?

    Pete

    December 10 2017 Reply

    Stanzas 1 and 4, Charles Wesley, 1744, Public Domain;
    stanzas 2–3, Mark E. Hunt, © 1978, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

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