Yesterday was the fourth Sunday in Advent and Tom and I worshipped at Linworth again. John and Jackie are in Pennsylvania with her family for Christmas, so we could have gone someplace closer. But we decided to go someplace familiar where we know a few of the faces.
The service opened with a solo voice singing “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.” I have heard or sung this song multiple times every Advent through my life, but yesterday the words seeped into my soul and touched me in a new way.
Come, thou long-expected Jesus. We have waited and prepared and looked for you so long. We have tried to be your people and live in ways that are pleasing to you. But when we look at the world, we see so little of you. Hate because of race or religion. Terror threats from one nation to another. Pain and suffering in our everyday lives. Come Lord Jesus. We wait and hold on to our hope, our expectation of your coming.
Born to set your people free from our sins and fears. Release us from the things that hold us back, chain us up, keep us from being fearless for you. Set us free from our fear and help us to fully rely on you. Let us know that we do not need to fear even when there is a bottomless chasm beneath us because you hold us up. You were born for this. Release us from these things so we can be free in you.
Let us find our rest in thee. We are so tired. We work too much, try to do so much, forget to observe your sabbath. We think we need to fill every moment with busyness. Especially at this time of year, we stuff the days with parties and responsibility and expectations. Slow us down. Make us stop so we can see you, listen to you, feel you in our hearts.
Precious Jesus, you are the joy of every longing heart. How we yearn to know you better and see your glorious face. We cannot find our joy in things, in work, in status, in people, in presents. You alone are the joy of our yearning hearts. We will never know true, unceasing, soul-deep joy until you appear.
Yesterday the long-expected Jesus came to my heart. He answered a prayer I didn’t even know I had spoken. The hour of worship became a deep and intense time of being in the presence of the living Lord. Now, now I am ready for Christmas.
Come, thou long-expected Jesus. Come to us all. Come again and again: at Christmas and every day of the year.