Monday, December 9

Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus [Charles Wesley 1744]

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.

When Charles Wesley composed this first stanza of his hymn he hit all the theological high notes.  Perhaps none more central to both the Gospel and the hope we have for Advent than the idea that Jesus comes to set us free from fear.  So often our worst decisions grow from a place of fear.  Wesley, of course, knows the passage from the fourth chapter of First John:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.

It is the love of God come down which says, "Do not fear!  I am with you."  Not unlike something a parent would say to a child who has awoken with night-terrors.  The promise, "I am with you" is the key.  Just as the parent's presence at the bedside assures the anxious child, so the Lord promises to stay with us and watch over us.  It is in that assurance that we can, to use Wesley’s words, "find our rest in Thee."

Advent provides us with time to examine the things which make us afraid and to see how those fears change our behavior.  Fear all too often gets in the way of our impulses to be generous and to risk on behalf of others.  Our fear fosters our unease in the presence of those in need, and it is at the root of the disquietude which keeps us awake at night with a mind which will not release us into sleep.

Let us shake off the clinging apprehensions which keep us timid and doubtful and let us tune our hearts to hear the song of the Angels who will soon be singing above the hills of Bethlehem, "Do not be afraid; for see—we bring you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord… Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

Daily Collect:
You, Lord, are Israel's strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.  Help us who await your coming in eager longing to hear the assurance of our faith that you are profoundly for us and that we need not live in constant fear.  May your perfect love, teach us to love more perfectly, that we might glorify you by all we do and say this Advent.  Amen.

Paul Lang