Advent Devotional Dec 17: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
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.
A couple of years ago I spent some in-depth time with the apocalyptic genre. Jewish Apocalyptic (which would include John’s Revelation for it fits the literary and even theological expectations) had a short lived history and it is mostly contained in the inter-testamental time period. While it has threads that are older it basically arises in 250 BCE and wraps up around 100 CE. In that time period however there is a lot of apocalyptic texts that are written, most of which did not end up in our scriptural canon which includes only two primarily apocalyptic texts: the second half of Daniel and the Book of Revelation.
The study of apocalypticism went through something of a renaissance during the 1960’s and 70’s with the backdrop of the Vietnam War and continual civil rights movements. I mention all this because some observe that the movement to apocalypticism is born of great cynicism with society. What we are doing isn’t working and the only way we can imagine goodness happening on the level we need it to happen is for some radical upheaval from beyond us.
For those of theological mind it would be the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom – the end of time – the scourging of all that is to create abundant newness… or even nothingness. Nothing also works two ways, some theological believe God’s Kingdom to be in a different place and that God will lay waste the world we know and rescue some out of it. There is another type of nothing as well that comes in the form of an apocalypse of non-theological nature. A great deal of science fiction movies and books center around a post-apocalyptic world, be it nuclear winter or the rise of autonomous and violent machines… etc, etc.
Why all this reflection? Did I forget my song, my purpose, my audience?
I wonder – do we live in such a time of such cynicism? Do we live in a time where we cannot imagine a way forward without totally and violent upheaval? Violence is on the rise and rearing its head everywhere. Ecological devastation. Political polarization. Vested interested in broken ways and means keeps us from creative responses and self-interest has us looking out for our own safety at the expense of the love of neighbors (in all the ways that term can mean ALL people).
What is the way forward in this world? Can we imagine a world where won’t have armed guards in school hallways, and gas masks so we can breathe our own atmosphere? I’m not an alarmist personality. But it is hard to ignore that fear is growing more rapidly than it is abating, and many of our responses to our fears actually create greater fear in pursuit of safety… in pursuit of safety. Perhaps that is part of the problem. We pursue safety at all costs – and maybe that is a phantom whose pursuit costs us our lives (in spirit if not in body). After all most apocalyptic scenarios predict that the means of our demise will be our own creations – the stuff we created to secure safety.
Come, Thou long expected Jesus.
This call is also an apocalyptic call. It is a call for that which is hidden to be revealed. A call for the world to be turned upside down. A call for radical newness.
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us.
This call however is about creating freedom from fear. It speaks of hope and grace, strength and consolation, and rest. The call is born of longing for something we do not have… and something that we have come to realize that we both need, and cannot do for ourselves.
When the addict enters a twelve-step program they admit weakness, and they admit that there is something that has power over them and they cannot overcome that power without help. We are addicts of fear and the pursuit of safety. And while we will pursue our addiction at all costs something inside of us realizes that to get anywhere on a large scale we need to change the nature of the conversation. We need something from beyond us to have the power to alter our pursuits, to put our spirits at ease, and to restore our hope in a future free from fear.
I am reminded of words from a song by musician Rich Mullins, “I do not know if we can have a heaven here on earth, but I know we need not have a hell here either.”
We need not create our own demise… WE NEED to not be the authors of our own demise. We need to not create “safety” by creating a world of fear holding ourselves hostage to the virtue of safety. And we really don’t know how to do that… and so comes Advent… we prayerful wait and actively prepare to welcome a new spirit, a new conversation, a new pursuit – and we name him Jesus.
This advent are we willing to admit we need to find a new way forward, we need to the coming of a way of life that will alter our pursuits – that safety at all costs is too much cost. And that we need to embrace humility to imagine that we don’t have the answers already in our grasp but need to seek newness from which freedom might ring. Come, thou long expected Jesus… come and set us free from our preoccupations, set us free from ourselves, set us free from the hold fear has on our hearts.