“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”

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

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Christmas hymns are one of my favourite aspects of the Advent season. “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” was written in 1739 by Charles Wesley, with later adaptations from George Whitefield. We’ve been singing this Christmas hymn for nearly 300 years. Meanwhile, much of the contemporary worship music written today is forgotten within a few years. Say what you like about old, musty hymns, but they certainly have staying power. There’s a timelessness about classic hymnody that has the potential to ground us in the timeless truths of our faith. For instance, look how theologically rich these lyrics are. No one writes church music like this anymore.

“Christ by highest heav’n adored,
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.”