As the Christmas decorations and displays began to surface in stores as early as October, I started to sing to myself one of my favorite Advent hymns. Later, it was easy to sing the words and give voice to the ancient hope of an ancient people.
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 thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.
As telling as those words are of Israel’s desire for a Savior, they also express the longing of a modern people. Created by God to be in relationship with God, we have this conscious and subconscious desire to find our hope, love, joy and peace in our God who became flesh to dwell among us.
For my spiritual practices during Advent, I have chosen to focus during the week on the Advent lections for each Sunday.
Those passages create their own set of questions about how God is choosing to speak during these weeks before the celebration of the birth of the Christ child.
I am also drawn to the questions that the words of the hymn raised.
From what fears does this Christ free us this Advent? How is joy manifested in our hearts? How does faith in Christ kindle hope in us this Advent season?
The celebration of the birth of the Christ child takes many forms in our culture, but the witness of the Christian church calls attention to the deep longings of the human spirit for a relationship with the long-expected Jesus.
May your days and hearts be filled with the hope, love, joy and peace that is found in the Christ.