But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
In 1744, the famed Methodist evangelist John Wesley compiled and published A Collection of Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord (available for your perusal here). This collection featured 18 carols composed by his brother Charles, the most famous of which is Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus. This beloved hymn found such universal appeal that it was even included in a hymn-book published by Augustus Toplady, whose infamous disputes with the Wesleys are well documented.
The tune most commonly associated with this hymn was composed by Rowland Prichard 100 years after the text was written. The melody, entitled HYFRYDOL (the Welsh word for “cheerful”), has been paired with a number of other hymn texts, most notably Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners.
Wesley composed only two stanzas for this hymn, but I also love the two additional verses composed by Mark E. Hunt in 1978. These verses are included in this great arrangement by Red Mountain Music from their album “Silent Night”:
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
Joy to those who long to see thee
Day-spring from on high, appear
Come, thou promised Rod of Jesse
Of thy birth, we long to hear
O’er the hills the angels singing
News, glad tidings of a birth
“Go to him, thy praises bringing:
Christ the Lord has come to earth!”
Come to earth to taste our sadness
He whose glories knew no end
By his life he brings us gladness
Our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend
Leaving riches without number
Born within a cattle stall
This the ever-lasting wonder:
Christ was born the Lord of all
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.
Stanzas 1 & 4 by Charles Wesley
Stanzas 2 & 3 by Mark E. Hunt, ©1978 InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
Advent is a season of waiting with expectation of the coming of Christ. We remember the long, silent years as Israel awaited her promised Savior. We repeat the sounding joy as we tell the story of the birth of Christ, the dear desire of every nation and the joy of every longing heart.
We also remember the promises that Christ made to us after his long-expected coming. We remember that while he was born in humility as a child, he was yet the King of heaven. We eagerly anticipate his promised return, and we pray that until that day comes—when he will bring with him his gracious kingdom and reign forever over all the earth with mercy and love—he will rule in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This Christmas season, may Christ be the desire of your longing heart. May those who long to see the “Dayspring from on high” (Luke 1:78) find joy and rest in the assurance of his present and future reign. And may we sing with the angels the story of his birth and announce the everlasting wonder: Christ was born the Lord of all!