Through Advent, I (Pastor Geoff) will be doing a reflection four times a week (Mon, Tue, Thu, Sat), and Paul will work with others to prepare a devotion from music, art or poetry on the other three days. He sent the first one yesterday. (The 4 th Sunday before Christmas is the start of Advent, and the Christian year).
In the service yesterday, we sang the well-known Advent Hymn, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” written by Charles Wesley and published in 1745. This hymn is jam-packed with theology. Almost every line refers not just to a Bible verse, but to a Biblical theme related to Messiah and the expected deliverance God would bring:
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 for ever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring:
By Thy own eternal Spirit,
Rule in all our hearts alone,
By Thy all-sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
The Sun, Edvard Munch, oil on canvas
The first line, “Come, thou long expected Jesus,” goes all the way back to God’s promise to Eve that she would have a descendant who would bruise the serpent’s head (Gen 3:15). It also relates to the promise of Moses that “God will raise up for you a prophet like me” (Deut 18:15), and the promise to David that for his ‘son’ God would “establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam 7:13). Jews were looking forward, in great anticipation, for this great Messianic king to come and deliver them.
Line two, “born to set thy people free,” picks up the hope of Isaiah 61:1, which Jesus read in the synagogue and declared fulfilled (Luke 4:21). Line three, “From our fears and sins release us” is an
expectation developed in the Psalms (e.g. 85:2, 103, 2-3) and the prophets (e.g. Isa 43:25, Jer 31:33-34, Hos 14:4). For those of us who do not have the time or expertise to remember all these hopes, Charles Wesley has given us a great summary. It is an ideal primer for our contemplations and prayers.
Today (November 30th ) is also the feast day of the Apostle Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist who decided to follow Jesus after John said, “behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:36). He introduced Jesus to his brother Simon, whom Jesus called Peter (“rock”). Simon Peter became the leading disciple and Andrew faded into the background. However, at the feeding of the 5,000 (Mt 14:13-21, Mk 6:30-44, Lk 9:10-17) Jesus told his disciples to feed the multitude. They protested that it was way too expensive. John’s gospel tells us that Andrew was the one who brought the boy with the 5 loaves and 2 fish to Jesus (John 6:1-14). A boy’s packed lunch was useless in the situation, but Andrew brought the little he had to Jesus anyway. That’s a special kind of faith! Also, he remained faithful to the teacher who made his brother the special one. (Would I do that?)
In His grace,