"Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus"

Monday, December 5, 2016

Does Advent celebrate Christ’s first and second comings or His first, second, and third? Most Christians think of two comings: His birth and His return in glory at the end of time as we know it. But there is another coming between those two: when He comes to individual Christians to dwell in their hearts. “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” by Charles Wesley refers to all three.

Charles Wesley wrote thousands of hymns, and many are still in use today. I will cover two of them in this blog.

According to Hymnary.org, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus) was first published in 1744 in Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord and contained two verses of eight lines each. Depending on which tune is used, however, some hymnals break it into four stanzas.

Wesley used near rhymes when he couldn’t find a true rhyme that conveyed his meaning. For example, “release us” is a near rhyme for “Jesus”; “forever” is a near rhyme for “deliver”; and “merit” is a near rhyme for “Spirit.” Although purists don’t like near-rhymes, many contemporary poets use them. And apparently it isn’t a new practice.

Wesley also used repetition to make a point. Notice the word “born,” which starts a line four times, including the three lines that begin the second (or third) stanza. This repetition emphasizes the incarnation. Lines 4 through 6 do not repeat a word but do repeat an idea, using a different description of Jesus in each line. That reminds me of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

Here is the text in two verses as found in The Lutheran Service Book published by Concordia Publishing House. The four-verse versions simply split each of the two verses in half.

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 ev’ry nation,
Joy of ev’ry 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.

Join me next week for a look at a Christmas hymn that Charles Wesley also wrote.


The portrait of Charles Wesley at the head of this post was painted by John Russell around 1771. It is in the public domain because of its age.

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