The Waiting | Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Deep in the heart of every human being, there is a longing for freedom, rest, restoration, and ultimately, a longing for true and lasting joy. We all desire to be caught up in a greater story, one that is not whirling out of control, much like our lives, but is rooted in something, or Someone, that is unshakeable. Someone that understands our longings, our hopes, our desires, our need for wholeness, both now and for eternity.

"Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus"* is perhaps one of my favorite Advent songs that communicates that longing. It's not one of those songs that you might sing while caroling around the neighborhood or that would you hear it sung regularly on your favorite radio station that does 24/7 Christmas songs, but this song packs a powerful punch! The Waiting | Our Longing Hearts, our Advent mini-series, will be based off of Scripture.

Written by Charles Wesley in 1744, it focuses on the “long-expected Jesus” who was born to set us free from sin, and to bring us salvation by His death. Here are the lyrics:

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

Wesley did not want to just paint a picture of Jesus in the manger; he wanted the entire Christmas story to have a personal application. Wesley wanted to impress upon God’s people that Jesus is not only the “desire of every nation,” but he is also the personal “joy of every longing heart.” Jesus has the “government on his shoulders,” but he was born to reign personally “in us.”

If we are not careful, we will miss much of the meaning that this song so lyrically conveys. The first verse focuses on the fact that the coming of Jesus Christ fulfilled Israel’s deep and desirous longing for the Messiah, the One who was coming to save them. A few of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled are Isaiah 7:14, which spoke of a virgin giving birth to a child whose name would mean “God with us;” Isaiah 9:6, which told of a child whose name would be called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace;” and Micah 5:2, which said that from Bethlehem would come a ruler whose “whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” 

These and many similar prophecies looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, and many devout Jews prayed earnestly for the day when He would arrive. Luke 2:22-38 tells of Simeon, a man of faith who was “looking for the consolation of Israel.” When he saw Jesus as an infant, Simeon knew that this Child was the fulfillment of his messianic hope. Charles Wesley borrowed from this passage when he described Jesus as “Israel’s strength and consolation” in the song.

Although He fulfilled Israel’s prophecies, Jesus came to bring salvation to the world, which is what Wesley was referring to when he described Christ as the “hope of all the earth” and the “dear desire of every nation.” More than that, He is the “joy of every longing heart.” He alone is the One who can satisfy every soul.

The last verse then goes on to tell us why Jesus can meet our expectations: He was “born a child and yet a King.” As the One who is both God and man, Jesus was able to satisfy God’s wrath completely by dying on the cross for our sins. When Wesley wrote about Jesus’ “all sufficient merit,” he was referring to Christ’s ability to bring us to salvation.

Join us, starting November 30, for this sermon series where we can find ourselves longing for and being found by the One who has come to dwell with us.


* This Advent season, we will be singing an arrangement of "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" by Red Mountain Music, off their album Silent Night. You can listen and download their version here.