Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus — Carols of Advent Hope

Scripture Focus: Hebrews 9:14-15
14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Haggai 2:7
7 “I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord Almighty.

From John:
Jon Polk is kicking off our Advent devotionals this year with another music-focused week on the Carols of Advent. We are always thankful for Jon’s contributions, especially so in this format. We pray your Advent season is filled with hope, love, joy, and peace as we anticipate the celebration of Christmas.

Reflection: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus — Carols of Advent Hope
By Jon Polk

With lyrics expressing profound longing and hope, there are few hymns more suited for the season of Advent than Charles Wesley’s “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.

Charles Wesley, younger brother of prominent English preacher John Wesley, was a theologian in his own right and a remarkably prolific hymn writer, credited with the authorship of over 6000 songs. In 1744, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” one of Wesley’s most enduring Christmas hymns, was first published in his Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord, a small collection of only eighteen hymns that proved to be so popular, it was reprinted over twenty times in his lifetime.

Partially based on a previously written prayer, the lyrics were also inspired by Haggai 2:7, “what is desired by all nations will come.” Wesley was troubled by the poor living conditions of orphans in the city around him and the obvious class divisions in Great Britain at the time. The lyrics express a palpable sense of longing for deliverance, both physically and spiritually, for the oppressed. The long-awaited King of Israel would, in fact, be the hope of all the world.

Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Wesley effectively utilizes the literary device of repetition to emphasize the aspects of Jesus’ mission as God’s Savior for a broken world. Each use of the word “born” adds layers to the hope we have in Jesus as our redeemer: born to set us free, born to deliver us, born as a King, and born to reign eternally.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.

Absent from the hymn are references to any details of the Christ-child’s birth. No manger, angels, shepherds, or magi. Instead, the focus is on the mystery of the Incarnation, with lyrics suited for both reflecting back upon the birth of Jesus and looking ahead with hope towards his Second Coming.

By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Certainly, the season of Advent is a time of preparing our hearts and minds for celebrating the birth of Christ on Christmas day. More importantly, however, Advent is a time set aside on the Church calendar when we are reminded of our great hope that the child who was born a King will one day return to bring us into his gracious eternal Kingdom.

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus by Sara Groves
Read: Lyrics from

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Today’s Readings
Daniel 11(Listen 8:13)
Hebrews 9(Listen 4:40)

Read more about Deuteronomy’s Dream for the Poor“…there need be no poor people among you…he will richly bless you if only you fully obey the Lord your God”

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Called to Prayer :: The Angelus

From John: 
Read the Bible. Reflect and pray. 

That is the two-pronged, ultra-simplified vision that we have for our readers. This week and part of next we take some time to curate and comment on some classic readings about prayer that may strengthen and encourage us in the practice of prayer.

Reflection: Called to Prayer :: The Angelus
By John Tillman

Money always catches culture’s eye.

In 1889 a painting of a moment of prayer sparked a bidding war that resulted in Jean–Francois Millet’s The Angelus, selling for 580,650 francs, an unprecedented sum of money, and in today’s currency, close to 3.25 million dollars.

Heidi J. Hornik reflects on the painting in her article, A Call to Prayer.

“The work shows a peasant couple bowing their heads in prayer as the evening Angelus bell tolls. In this thrice-daily devotion—morning, noon, and evening—the church bell calls followers to a prayer of gratitude for the goodness of God expressed through the Incarnation.”

We have written before about the spiritual discipline of praying the hours, which is related to the type of prayer seen in the painting. We regularly point readers to the work of Phyllis Tickle in The Divine Hours prayers. 

In the painting, a community, separated by distance, was united by the call of the bell and by pausing to pray. It is not the bell or the distant physical church that unites them—it is the spiritual bond of prayer.

“Millet…recalls that ‘his grandmother, hearing the church bell ringing while we were working in the fields, always made us stop work to say the Angelus prayer…’”

The Angelus prayer centers scripturally around the Annunciation to Mary and Mary’s response. The message, both from the angel and from the Magnificat later in Luke’s account, speaks of good news to the lowly and the poor. The gospel always comes first to the lowly.

“After the 1848 Revolution in France, a peasant revolt that spread fear in Europe, Millet’s paintings were negatively reinterpreted as fostering a too grandiose view of the common people…Though our estimate of a work of art will always be influenced by our attitude toward its cultural, political, and religious context, perhaps the time has come for us to appreciate The Angelus as an honest depiction of a prayerful response to God’s presence…the prayerful couple’s humility seems wholly genuine, reflecting their response to the grandeur of God’s work in nature between them and the church shown in the distance.”  

The Park Forum seeks to be a bell in the distance, calling our readers to spiritual disciplines that foster unity and grant purpose and power. 

Whether in a maze of cornfields, or a maze of cubicles, or a corner office, may we be called to prayer by setting a chime, a reminder, or a notification. At that tone, may we take a humble posture, similar to these peasants, and may we pray.

*View “The Angelus” by Jean–Francois Millet via this link.
*Quotations from A Call to Prayer, by Heidi J, Hornik

We will forgo the Divine Hours prayer today, to pray together the concluding lines of the Angelus Prayer. You may still find a link to The Divine Hours here.

The Angelus:
“Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.”

Today’s Readings
1 Chr 3-4 (Listen -8:52)
Hebrews 9  (Listen -4:40)

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Read more about Transitions
The early church’s rhythmic practice of daily prayer and readings unified them across the known world

Read more about Artful Prayers
Art is not scripture. But all art preaches. Many times art preaches more effectively than a sermon.