This Advent season I am going to reflect on a hymn or carol daily as part of my spiritual practices. I am not sure where all these reflections will take me, but in conversation with my spiritual director, I am going to leave room for both “the head stuff” and “the heart stuff.” Some days might be more of one or another. I invite you to join me, as together we make space to listen, and be present, to sense what God might be up to.
Charles Wesley is probably more well known for his preaching and thoughts about ministry, but he left us perhaps more than 9,000 hymn texts as well. “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” is probably one of the more famous Advent hymn texts. It has actually been set to a few different tunes. In the Lutheran hymnal it is set to “Jefferson,” with music from W. Walker in Southern Harmony, from 1835. This tune captures the Advent feel well. In other hymnals, and how I usually prefer singing it as a congregation, it is set to “Hyfrydol,” a musical tune by Rowland Prichard (the tune for hymns like “Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling”). This tune might be a bit more familiar, and easy to sing to the average worshiper.
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.
“Let us find our rest in thee.” Something that hasn’t happened in months, happened last night. I slept for nearly ten hours. That’s crazy. It must have been needed, and I am grateful for that. I can’t help but think that it was the result of Allison and I spending some time in intentional prayer together before bed.
Maybe I’m alone in this, but I doubt it. Even though it’s dark for longer this time of year, making it feel like you want to be in bed longer, with all that’s going on and needs to get done, it feels less and less likely that you’ll get a full night sleep every night. It can also be hard to sleep fully with “fears” and “longings” that might be on our hearts and minds. For these, and for everything that might be on your mind and keeping you from sleep, maybe taking five minutes to write these things, whatever they are, down or to name them aloud before rest, and then hand them over to God, might just help clear your head for a good night sleep.
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.
This pretty well sums up God’s work in Christ for us, doesn’t it? Even though Wesley wasn’t Lutheran, this verse makes it sounds like he could have been. As you go about your Saturday, a day off for many of you I suspect, may you take some time to relax and recharge. If you are out and about Christmas shopping, baking cookies, going to parties, preparing for a trip to the Post Office with Christmas cards or gifts… take some time to breathe and relax. Don’t let the stress that can set in this time of year be upon you. I know, it’s easier said than done. But I’m going to try and do just that today while working around the house on the “To-Do” list, and I hope that you are able to do likewise.
Oh, and if you are a sports fan and need a chance to relax after some work, there’s always the MLS Cup today featuring my hometown Seattle Sounders FC trying to repeat as Major League Soccer champs against Toronto FC, and the always meaningful Army-Navy game today too.
Whatever you do today and on your weekend, may you do so with a sense of God’s peace and presence.
Credit/Reference: Charles Wesley, “Come, Thou, Long-Expected Jesus,” W. Walker, Southern Harmony, found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 254.
Paul Westermeyer, Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortess, 2010), 20-21.