Come Thou Long-expected Jesus
Hymn of the Week
Introduction of the Hymn
This is the Hymn of the Week with Dr. Larry Frazier—presenting the good news in song, combining faith and everyday experience.
Preparations for Christmas
Preparations for Christmas now begin well before Thanksgiving. For many businesses, sales in the weeks before Christmas make up a majority of receipt for the entire year.
After Halloween, Christmas decorations and advertisements begin to appear, increasing exponentially through Christmas Eve. Almost everyone is caught up in the hustle and bustle of events of the season.
Season of Advent
Christians have traditionally prepared for Christmas through self-reflection, prayer and special services of worship. Beginning with the fourth Sunday before Christmas, liturgical churches refer to this as the season of Advent. The incarnation of God in the baby Jesus is a central event of Christianity. Ironically, there are relatively few hymns written for this season of the church year.
Charles Wesley's Great Advent Hymn
One of the greatest hymns for this season was written by a giant hero of the faith, Charles Wesley. He wrote over 6,500 hymns among his over 9,000 poetic works. His great Advent hymn, Come Thou Long-expected Jesus, is The Hymn of the Week!
Click Below for Come Thou
Long-expected Jesus Lyrics
Come Thou Long-expected Jesus: Hymn of the Week Radio Show
Reading of Come Thou
Long-expected Jesus Lyrics
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.
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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.
And now, let us hear our hymn, first sung to the tune Cross of Jesus by the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge, followed by the Scottish Festival Singer singing it to the tune Stuttgart.
Background of Come
Thou Long-expected Jesus
Come Thou Long-expected Jesus first appeared in a collection by Charles Wesley, Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord. Published in London, in 1745, he wrote these hymns for congregational singing and personal reading during the season of Advent. Wesley desired to encourage preparation and renewed conviction of faith in preparation for Christmas. Subsequently, twenty-four editions of this collection were published during his lifetime.
Fragile, Tiny Baby
Charles Wesley was born at Epworth, Lincolnshire, England, on December 18, 1707. He was a fragile, tiny baby, the eighteenth of nineteen children of a poor, Church of England clergyman and his long-suffering wife. Nine of the couple’s previous children died in infancy. Because of this experience his mother feared that this boy, born several weeks premature, would also not survive.
Charles Wesley's Education
He grew up in a small parsonage shared by several siblings and an often-absentee father. His mother kept the family together and provided early education for each of her children. She managed to spend at least one hour per week with each child. When Charles went to London to further his education at the Westminster School, he was well-prepared to excel.
Wesley continued his studies at Christ Church College, Oxford. After graduation he became a tutor. In 1727, he founded an organization for students upholding the highest standards of academic practice and morality in personal conduct. These standards were in accord with those laid down in statutes of the University.
The Holy Club
They were also quite similar to those inculcated in him from an early age by his mother. The group became known as the “Holy Club.” Members were called “Methodists” because of their method of study and practice.
Christian Theology as Core Academic Discipline
The study of Christian theology was a core academic discipline at 18th-century English and American universities. Indeed, an early brochure from Harvard describes the mission of the institution as follows: “To advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the Churches.” The academic color for theology is crimson, for the blood of Christ. an historic color long associated with Harvard. However this university has never been formally associated with a specific religious denomination.
John Wesley joined his younger brother Charles as a tutor at Oxford. Shortly thereafter he became leader of the “Holy Club” of “Methodists.” The two remained at the university until ordination in the Church of England in 1735.
Charles Wesley and Governor Oglethorpe of Georgia
Early the next year, Charles Wesley served as private secretary and personal chaplain to James E. Oglethorpe, governor of Georgia. On a voyage to this English colony, Charles and John Wesley encountered a band of Moravian missionaries. The Moravians introduced the brothers to German hymns.
Charles found colonial life in Georgia quite disagreeable, and he returned to London within a few months. Associating himself with a Moravian congregation, he experienced what he described as his spiritual conversion on May 20, 1738. Shortly thereafter, he joined his brother as an evangelist, traveling across England on horseback.
He preached out-of-doors and in secular buildings to great numbers of people. A remarkable preacher, he expressed profound truths of the Christian faith in a manner even the uneducated could easily follow. So compelling and persuasive was his preaching, that he often converted his most determined opponents.
Charles Wesley's Theology
The prevailing Calvinist theology emphasized salvation for a small group of believers—the “elect.” In contrast, Charles Wesley preached of a loving God, who laid aside aspects of divinity to take on human form. The birth of the Christ child was for the ultimate salvation and benefit of all who would believe. He poetically describes this theology in the following verses.
“Thou can not mock the sons of men,
Invite us to draw nigh,
Offer thy grace to all, and then
Thy grace to most deny!
Lord, if indeed, without a bound,
Infinite love Thou art,
The horrible decree confound,
Enlarge thy people’s heart!”
Energetic, Enthusiastic and Passionate Preacher
His preaching was infused with utmost energy, enthusiasm and passion. He once became so agitated in preaching on Psalm 23, that he suffered a prolonged nosebleed. This continued for some time after he had finished his sermon.
Unlike his brother, whom he dissuaded from marrying, Charles Wesley had a happy marriage. He had two sons and a daughter. One of his grandsons, Samuel Sebastian Wesley, became a leading English composer and church musician of the 19th century.
Prolific Hymn Writer
Charles Wesley is considered by some scholars to stand among the finest English poets of the 18th century. But he is universally recognized as one of the greatest and most prolific hymn writers of all time.
Favorite Charles Wesley Hymns
Wesley wrote over 6500 hymns, many of which are still popular today. He expresses a wide range of Christian experience in subjective poetic language with a decidedly evangelical emphasis. In addition to Come Thou Long-expected Jesus are the following favorites:
A Charge to Keep I Have;
Christ the Lord is Risen Today;
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling;
Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim;
Jesus, Lover of my Soul; and
Hark the Herald Angels Sing.
Maintained Ordination Vows in Church of England
Charles Wesley, though perhaps better gifted, has historically remained in his brother John’s shadow. For 50 years he tirelessly preached and wrote hymns with astounding facility in advancing the movement for “the people known as Methodists.” He maintained his ordination vows in the Church of England and strongly opposed the establishment of a separate Methodist denomination. He died in 1788.
Next, let us hear two of the tunes now commonly paired with our hymn. The Ralph Carmichael Brass Choir plays "Hyfrydol," followed by organist William Neil playing “Stuttgart.”
Background of the Tune
As is often the case with hymns, Charles Wesley first published, Come Thou Long-expected Jesus without any music. Therefore, it could be sung with any tune in compatible meter for syllables arranged in the following pattern: 188.8.131.52.
Three tunes are now commonly paired with our hymn. However, Stuttgart is the only one that could have been sung during Wesley’s lifetime. Christian Friedrich Witt included Stuttgart in his 1715 collection, Salmodia Sacra (Sacred Psalms). It is interesting to consider that Wesley could have heard this tune played by Moravians on his voyage to Georgia. However, there is no documentation of this happening.
Cross of Jesus and Hyfrydol
The other two tunes are from the 19th century. Sir John Stainer (1840-1901), English organist, choirmaster, teacher, composer and musicologist wrote, Cross of Jesus. Rowland Hugh Prichard (1811-1887), a gifted amateur musician from Wales, wrote Hyfrydol.
And now, let us hear our hymn, with stanzas set to three different tunes—Cross of Jesus, Hyfrydol and Stuttgart—sung by your narrator and host, Dr. Larry Frazier, bass, accompanied by pianist Terry Lowry.
Devotion or Scripture
Related to the Hymn
In Come Thou Long-expected Jesus, Charles Wesley refers to both the incarnation and to the second coming of Jesus. Scripture declares that Jesus will then rule eternally as a king over a new heaven and earth.
Old Testament Verses
Consider these verses from Haggai 2:6-7. “For thus says the Lord of Hosts. Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come. And I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts.”
New Testament Verses
And, from Hebrews 12:25-26: “See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven.’”
Pursue Peace and Holiness
During the season of Advent, may we pursue peace with everyone. May we also pursue the holiness that can allow the “long-expected Jesus, born a child and yet a king, to reign in us forever.” And “by thine own eternal spirit” and "all-sufficient merit, rule in our hearts alone and raise us to thy glorious throne.”
And now, let us hear our hymn, sung to the tune Cross of Jesus, by the St. Michael’s Singers
Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Hymn of the Week. Join us again, next week, when we will consider another great hymn.
Until then, this is your host, Dr. Larry Frazier…
Goodbye, and Keep Singing!