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.
Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth, for there is no help in them. When they breathe their last, they return to earth, and in that day, their thoughts perish. Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help, whose hope is in the LORD their God; who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them; who keeps his promise forever; who gives justice to those who are oppressed, and food to those who hunger.
It’s the day after the elections and some are happy with the results and others are unhappy. Regardless of who won it is important to remember the words of Psalm 146 – there is no government on earth worthy of our deepest trust. Only God keeps every promise he ever made. Only God is to be trusted with our life.
We use our skills and intellect to elect earthly leaders to make and implement policies for the common good. This is important. But even at their best, those leaders are sinners. They cannot keep all the promises they make and they certainly cannot save anyone from the destruction that awaits all sinners. They cannot overturn the consequences of human sin by any legislation, fiat, or judicial action.
We vote, we pray for our elected leaders, we engage the political process for the common good of all people. We do not, however, place our trust in any earthly authority.
For only God, who has created us and all that exists, who has redeemed us by the death and resurrection of Jesus, who makes us holy by the work of the Holy Spirit is trustworthy. Only God has the power and the authority to pluck us from the jaws of death and place us into the safety of his love. Only Jesus overturns the conviction against us for our sins and gives us life eternal with him.
Happy are they who put their trust in the LORD of hosts!
Prayer: O Lord our governor, your glory shines throughout the world. We commend our nation to your merciful care, that we may live securely in peace and may be guided by your providence. Give all in authority the wisdom and strength to know our will and to do it. Help them remember that they are called to serve the people as lovers of truth and justice; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (from Lutheran Book of Worship, #172)