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.
During the Advent season, the word hope is often highlighted. The coming of Jesus is an impossible story to tell without hope. He was the “long expected” savior – the bringer of light within a very dark world. He was the one spoken of by Isaiah and Joel; the peace promised to us in Micah. Jesus is hope fulfilled. He came to satisfy the longing of every heart.
So when I think about hope, I generally think about anticipation. We wait for gifts carefully prepared and chosen by loved ones. We count down the days until our family arrives or school gets out. We align ourselves with those who waited for Jesus so long ago. There’s something special and warm about hope at Christmas. It feels big and exciting, maybe even magical. This hope is rich with history and grandeur. It started before us and it will carry on long after we’re gone.
I have to admit, though, hope can often be a crutch for me. I hold onto these cozy feelings of anticipation and wonder for what’s ahead, while I miss out on the present state of my heart. Hope is beautiful, but it requires something else to be fully realized. We sing songs like “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” and “Joy to the World” that testify to our release from sin. The coming of Jesus meant, and still means, freedom and grace. To know the true hope of Jesus, though, we must prepare our hearts for Him.
“Let every heart prepare him room.” The only heart that can do this is a repentant heart. During this Christmas season, let’s enjoy the lights and nostalgia. At the same time, let’s open our hearts to more than warm feelings, as good as they are. Let’s prayerfully look at our hearts and minds, and ask God to point out anything that separates us from Him. We must return to the one who brought hope with His arrival on this earth.
“’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” (Joel 2:12-13)
Christmas may not be the most obvious time to rend our hearts to God. It may feel difficult and uncomfortable to be on our knees in repentance in the midst of festive, light-hearted celebrations. Yet even now, especially now, we need to return to the Father. This is a time we set aside to remember the most beautiful paradox of all time. The Infinite King came as an infant. The all-powerful, all-knowing God came as a man, humbled and limited by his humanity. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Oh, the wonder of Christmas.” This is the perfect time to renew our love for the one we’ve longed for and desired.
Hope cannot be fully experienced without repentance. And still, there is such hope in repentance. In repentance, we see ourselves accurately. We see our need for forgiveness and grace and communion with God. We also see Jesus as the one we long for – the one hearts desired long before they knew Him and the one who is God with us now. And there is such sweet hope in knowing the Savior of the world. When we put our hope in anything other than Jesus, we face the risk of being disappointed. That kind of hope may not be realized; it may not be sure. A repentant heart brings us to true hope, though. This is the hope that never fails. It’s certain and concrete. It is this glorious contradiction – we humble ourselves, return to Jesus holding onto nothing, and in response, he gives us the most amazing gift. Hope. Pure, perfect hope.
So this Christmas, let us return to the long expected Jesus. Let us remember the wonder of God’s gift to us and turn from all that holds us back from truly knowing him. Let’s prepare our hearts and make room for hope.
Written by Jessica Lyons, an Experience alumna, who serves with her husband, Reed, as Bethel College Resident Directors.
Leave a Reply