Written in 1744 by Charles Wesley, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” is easily one of my favourite Christmas hymns. In fact, it’s been the first hymn in the order of worship for the first Sunday of Advent pretty much every year I’ve been a pastor.
The best Christmas hymns are a combination of hope and longing, and include joy and a hint of melancholy. It’s that desire for God to act, to intervene in the mess of the world, knowing it only ever happens partially on this side of Christ’s Second Advent. But there’s also this joy and celebration that not only is there hope but that we can—here and now—experience something of God’s saving grace and the peace we long to know. Hope sustains us in difficulties and gives us a joy that our circumstances can’t explain, a settled-ness of heart that our ultimate comfort comes not from the things of this world.
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