…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.
-A Hymn of Charles Wesley
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
-Isaiah 40:3-5 (NIV)
When is the right time to put out your lights? To decorate a tree? To start singing the songs of the season? Many people have strong feelings on this subject, but their critiques are generally ignored by those who just can’t wait to celebrate. The impatience is understandable: colorful lights cheer these short fall and winter days, and the songs are great.
During Advent this year we will explore a new hymn each week in this newsletter and in worship. We start here at the beginning, appropriately, with the hymn which kicks off Advent in every United Methodist Church in which I have ever belonged: “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.” One of the most beloved of the over 6,000 hymns Charles Wesley wrote during his life, singing these words signals our joy at what has already been and what is yet to come. It is a song of celebration and also anticipation.
What are you celebrating in your life, your community, and our shared world?
What are you anticipating – with hope or with dread – as we ready our hearts to welcome the Christ child once more?
While we wait, of course, you have full permission to sing. Music has always been a part of how we grow in faith, the most powerful way to sing the good hope we share into our bones. If you’d like to learn more about how our great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfathers and grandmothers shared and received these songs, watch this short video on the sorts of books the 19th century Circuit Riders carried. In the meantime, wait in hope for the one who was, and is, and is to come.
Grace and Peace,