December 10: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus is a wonderfully theological Advent hymn, referencing Scripture after Scripture to point to the promised Messiah. When we sing it, we are joining with the prophets in saying: Come, Desire of Nations! Come, Rod of Jesse! Come, Redeemer and Dayspring! Come, promised King!
Of course, these prophecies were written in the hope that a Messiah would be born, but we have the privilege of knowing that he was. So, in the very first line of this hymn, we profess Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecies: Come, thou long-expected Jesus!
At the church at which I serve, we are singing one verse of “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” each week throughout Advent, after we light a candle on our Advent wreath. By the time Christmas Eve rolls around, we will have sung four verses of this beautiful hymn.
Four verses, you ask; aren’t there only two?
It is true that Charles Wesley only wrote two verses of “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.” The text was one of eighteen Christmas songs written by Wesley and published in Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord in 1744. But in more recent years, Mark E. Hunt wrote two additional verses to be inserted between Wesley’s verses. The new 4-verse version was published by Intervarsity Press in 1978 and recorded in the Trinity Hymnal in 1990.
I personally love the new verses and how they contribute to the original. I appreciate how the new verses create a flow from thought to thought, with each verse starting where the previous verse left off, as if we were singing one long run-on sentence:
Come, thou long expected Jesus, joy of ev’ry longing heart…
joy to those who long to see thee, Christ the Lord has come to earth…
come to earth to taste our sadness, Christ was born the Lord of all…
born thy people to deliver, raise us to thy glorious throne!
The four verses seamlessly lead us from the expectation of Jesus’ birth (verse 1) to the story of the birth (verse 2) to the reason for his birth (verse 3) to the expectation of Jesus’ return (verse 4).
I hope that as we sing this song in anticipation of Christmas, we will remember how God kept his promise to send the Messiah. And I hope that we will look forward, with renewed passion, to his promised return.
For Reflection: Haggai 2:7 was a main inspiration for Wesley’s lyrics. Read Haggai 2:6-9 and think about how Jesus fulfilled Haggai’s prophecy in this birth and death, and how he will fulfill it at his second coming. Sing “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” praying for Jesus to come again soon.