Long-expected

james-5-7aOne of the holiday traditions we celebrate as a family is lighting candles on our Advent wreath while we sing the hymn, “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus.” We start with only the first stanza, then add another through the four weeks of Advent, so that during the week before Christmas the song is sung in its entirety* with meaningful reverence. I am glad, though, that my favorite lines are in the first stanza. That way they stay fresh on my mind for the full month as we sing the words over and over.

“From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee.” What a simple, sincere prayer. Over the years that our son has struggled with bipolar disorder, I have wondered if all the petitions in my prayers haven’t actually boiled down to those 13 words, or at least to several keywords: fears, release, restand most importantly, Thee.

Just as we recall that the Savior has come into the world to deliver from sin, we reaffirm that He will come into our world to deliver us and our loved ones from the pain and chaos in our lives. In Advent we join Simeon’s vigil of hope. We whisper the secret longings of peace and watch for signs that Emmanuel has come.

Jesus’ birth was “long-expected.” Likewise, as we have cared for a dear one struggling with mental illness, we have long expected His healing. We eagerly wait for Him to deliver those who suffer and to release us from our fears.

In Advent we prepare to celebrate Christ’s first coming and make our hearts ready for His second. During this Advent season may we be filled with hope and rest in the reassurance that He who has come into the world will come into ours.

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*Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus

by Charles Wesley

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.