Advent is the beginning of the Church Year for most churches in the Western tradition. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). If Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent, with Christmas Eve proper beginning at sundown.
This year the first Sunday in Advent will be November 30.
The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture reading for Advent will reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment on sin, and the hope of eternal life.
I thought it would be interesting to focus on Music for the devotional this year. So during each day in Advent, a different Advent or Christmas Hymn will be highlighted. I have gleaned many different historical, devotional and hymnals to obtain the “Hymn Stories” behind the hymns.
November 30. “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” by Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
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.
Born Thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever, Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thin own eternal spirit, Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thing all sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
Charles Wesley wrote 7,500 hymns -- roughly a hymn every other day for 50 years. I find that amazing! It would be amazing if he had written one verse every other day, but most of his hymns have several verses. I can scarcely imagine how he managed to do anything else -- but he was a great preacher as well as a great writer of hymns.
The hymn, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus," looks forward to Jesus' Second Coming. It begins, "Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free." Wesley looked forward to the time when Jesus would come again to set us free from fear and sin.
Wesley knew what it meant for people not to be free. When he was about thirty years old, he traveled to America on a mission, where he saw slavery in its rawest form. He recorded in his journal that he had seen parents give their child a slave to torment. Wesley was so shaken by the evil of slavery that he nearly had a nervous breakdown. It wasn't long before he returned to England.
Some would criticize Wesley for not remaining in America to join the fight against slavery, but Wesley's weapons were his sermons and his hymns. For the next several decades, his sermons and hymns lent their power to the efforts to make people free -- free from slavery -- free from fear -- free from sin.