My Favorite Christmas Song: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus [25 Days of Holiday Songs]

Welcome to Day 3 of the “25 Days of Holiday Songs” Challenge. Today’s post is brought to you by Rev. Rebecca L. Torres-Holland, the author of 
www.beckiewrites.com. Rebecca has written an amazing piece about her favorite Christmas hymns! Check it out behind the cut!

For me, Christmas time doesn’t truly begin until we gather at the church on a Sunday and the organist sounds the opening chords to Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.”  In my hometown, people begin putting the reindeer on the lawn as soon as the trick-or-treating is done; however, I don’t really start to get into the Christmas spirit until Advent begins.  Advent is the time of preparation leading up the celebration of Christmas. Traditionally, it encompasses the first four to six Sundays before Christmas. Since I’m a pastor, I can’t help but think in “liturgical” or “church” time instead of secular time.

A Brief History of the Hymn

Charles and John Wesley were two brothers who started a church revival in England during the 1700s that carried all the way into modern times. Eventually, the seeds of faith that John and Charles planted would take root and become one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world, the United Methodist Church.

Charles came to be known as the “Bard of Methodism.” He is credited with writing over 5,000 hymns and poems. The brothers set Charles’s poems to the music of popular tunes at the time (a bit like if you wrote a poem today and set it to the tune of a modern pop song). Charles’s eloquent lyrics combined with popular melodies of the time made his work incredibly popular. You might be familiar with another one of Charles Wesley’s popular Christmas hymns without even knowing it. He is also the author of, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

The Wesley brothers published the hymns in affordable hymnbooks that common people could afford to purchase. The hymns of Charles Wesley became “portable theology,” that people carried with them across the ocean and spread throughout North America.

Why This Is My Favorite Christmas Song

It’s easy to see why the hymns of Charles Wesley became so popular. Charles was a talented, as well as a prolific, poet. I love poetry and I cannot help but appreciate the deep sense of longing that Wesley packs into just two short verses. Due to the pure beauty of the words, this is a hymn that can be appreciated even if one is not a Christian due to its own intrinsic artistic merit. The words of the poem ache with longing. The poet expresses a hope as well as a deep desire for a better world; one in which love and hope shall reign.

Try reading the words aloud. The text is musical in and of itself:

Lyrics:  

1. 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.

2. Born they 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 own sufficient merit,

Raise us to thy glorious throne.

This Holiday Season, it is my hope that all of us will raise our hearts and voices in song as we dare to hope for a brighter future.


Bio

Rev. Rebecca L. Torres-Holland, M.Div.

Rebecca is an aspiring author and a United Methodist pastor. She holds a B.S. in the English Education and a Master’s of Divinity. She blogs about ministry, books, and her life as a female clergywoman of color with a visual disability at www.beckiewrites.com. Her current work in progress is a book with the working title Share Your Story that will help to empower people who have been traditionally marginalized by the church to share their stories. Her views are her own.   

Social Media Links: 

Blog: Rev. Rebecca Writes: Read, Write, Pray.  www.beckiewrites.com 

 Twitter: @BeckieWrites

Instagram: @BeckieWrites 

Linked In: Rebecca Torres-Holland

FacebookRebecca Torres-Holland


Sources

  1. Hawn, Michael. (n.d.). “History of hymns: hymn expresses the longing for the arrival of our savior.  Discipleship Ministries. Retrieved from https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-hymn-expresses-longing-for-arrival-of-our-savior
  2. Julian, John. (1907).  Dictionary of hymnology. Retrieved from https://hymnary.org/person/Wesley_Charles
  3. Hutchins, Charles. (1872). Annotations of the hymnal. Retrieved from https://hymnary.org/person/Wesley_Charles

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for including me in this project! It’s been great fun!

  2. Howdy, AMY.
    I’m not sure I’ve even heard this song before.
    My good friend Marty Brumer played the part of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s son, Charlie, in a 1986 Franciscan Communications film titled ‘Preparing For Christmas: An Advent Program For The Family’. Longfellow wrote the poem / song ‘I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day’.
    Sadly, my friend Marty was killed by a car thief running from the police in Los Angeles in 1989. I watch his performance in ‘Preparing For Christmas’ every December. He had a small part but did a very good job with it.
    As for the “long-expected Jesus”, although no man knows the day or the hour, as a longtime ardent student of The Holy Bible, I am convinced that certain prophecies clearly indicate that the “long-expected” day is not much further into the future. Probably no more than 10 or 11 years, I strongly believe.
    ~ D-FensDogG @ STMcC Presents ‘BATTLE OF THE BANDS’

  3. Heard this song. I might say, I like it, many of my friends are Christians. I already shared the song with my friends, let’s see what they have to say. But yes it is melodious.

  4. I never heard this one but I love listening to hymns at Christmas. I’m totally one of those people who would listen to holiday music all year round haha!

    1. Thank you so much! This is one of my favorite hymns and I think it’s a lesser known favorite 🙂

  5. You’re taking me back now. I love hymns in general and sang a lot as a child in school. Still do so at home now for nostalgia.

  6. I love that you went into the history of this song! It’s so interesting to know where things like this come from. Great article!

  7. I love your series of 25 hymns. It’s great to know the history behind them. It’s my first time to hear this hymn. I’m more familiar with Count Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I hope you can feature it too.

    1. It was so fun to be a part of this series 🙂 We sing “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing,” frequently at my church.

  8. Christmas is one of my favorite times of year! Mainly because of the music great list.

  9. I love this song and this post! I can attest to that longing that makes some of us year: Come thou long expected Jesus!
    Can you imagine it being much longer than we have already waited? Hard to imagine.
    Well, while we wait, we have got work to do to let others know about our Saviour, what He came to do, and what He has gone to do for us.
    Thanks for sharing the backgroungd to this poem in song.

    1. Thank you for reading! Advent is one of my favorite times in the church year. I really empathize with that feeling of longing.

  10. Christmas is such a wonderful time of year! And this song is a goodie!

    1. I love this song. I hope that you are having a very happy holiday season!

    1. Thank you! It’s my favorite 🙂 I hope you are having a very happy holiday season!

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