Charles Wesley wrote Come Thou Long Expected Jesus in 1744. It was first published in his “Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord” hymnal. Wesley wrote “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” with the a dual purpose in mind: first, that people would remember Advent and Christmas as commemorating the nativity of Jesus and, second, that people would prepare for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as King and Sovereign over all.
The hymn came into popular knowledge across Christian denominations in England through the ministry of the popular Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon. He preached a Christmas sermon in London in 1855 when he was 21 and included sections of “Come thou long expected Jesus” in it. The point he was illustrating is that there are very few who are “born king” and that Jesus was the only one who had been born king without first being a prince.
The lyrics of “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” focus on God choosing to give a Messiah to the world in the form of Jesus. It also focusses on the Old Testament Israelites longing for the Messiah to come and take the burden of sins from them to take them upon himself. It is postulated that the last line of the first verse may have come from Wesley being inspired by a 17th century philosopher; Blaise Pascal, who claimed that “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every person that cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator.”
The Christmas carol is unique insofar as it does not go into detail about the nativity itself. The carol, however, reaches into our hearts because it touches upon a longing that is common to each of us. It is a desire taught throughout the Bible that the Messiah would meet a deep need of all people, the coming of the Lord to both the Jews and the Gentiles.
While the Israelites are the featured people in the Old Testament, even there God has stated that He rules over the whole earth and over all the nations.
This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?Isaiah 14:26-27
In teaching about the end times, Jesus told the people that they needed to be careful because the day will come suddenly like a trap, and it will come to all who dwell in the earth.
“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”Luke 21:34-36
Today, 2,000 years since the Lord Jesus spoke these words to those around Him, we are still waiting for that day to come, the day when Jews and Gentiles will be united with the Lord. Indeed, there will no longer be Jew or Gentile, we will all be Christians, looking to the Lord as our Savior Redeemer.
This beautiful Christmas carol expresses this desire eloquently, and it is as applicable today as it was when Wesley penned the words. Come Lord Jesus, come.
Here is this carol as sung on YouTube by My House Worship Sessions.
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.
Father, I pray that people who don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ would, today, come to Him in faith, believing that He is God and that He died for their sins, accepting Christ as their Savior Redeemer. I pray for those who are yearning for peace and joy, but who are looking for these things in the world, rather than in Jesus. I pray that those who seek peace and joy will find it this Christmas as they approach the manger and see the King.