Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
“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.”
– Charles Wesley, 1744.
About 2,400 years before Charles Wesley penned the hymn “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”, the prophet Isaiah envisioned the future coming of “Israel’s strength and consolation”. Isaiah, a prophet with “unclean lips” dwelling in the “midst of a people with unclean lips” (Is 6:5) begins, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: ‘Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand’” (Is 1:2–3). It seems our New Covenant apples have not fallen far from Israel’s Old Covenant tree. Often, we too rebel against Yahweh; we too do not understand.
While much of Isaiah’s vision pertains to the immediate, historical situation of Israel, on occasion Yahweh provides eyes for Isaiah to see a future deliverance further out and then further still. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end…” (Isaiah 9:6).
We say that we live in the “already and not yet” of the kingdom of God. The Messiah Jesus has come—he has already “moved into the neighborhood”—and we have “beheld his glory” (Jhn 1:14). In the Advent season, the glowing plastic Nativity scene on my neighbor’s lawn and the local church’s Christmas play re-enacts that in Jesus the kingdom of God is available here and now (Lk 17:21). And yet, we await the “not yet”—the fullness of Isaiah’s, kingdom vision: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding….The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat…and a little child shall lead them….They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Is 11:1–2, 6, 9).
As we await the fullness of the reign of God, we offer a series of four weekly Advent meditations to help us lean into the present availability of Emmanuel, the long-expected Jesus. These four meditations are centered around Isaiah’s foretelling of Messiah Jesus as our Wonderful Counselor (week one), Mighty God (week two), Everlasting Father (week three), and Prince of Peace (week four). We pray that these meditations will used by the Spirit of the Lord to open you more deeply to his strength and consolation.
If you are looking to engage in an advent meditation on a daily basis, please see our Come, Lord Jesus video series.
Antonio Balestra, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons