Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Written by Rhonda Alstott

I’ve heard myself say a few times in 2020 that I’ve never had so much time, with so little on my calendar to do, and still unable to accomplish anything with all this  “free” time. I think it is fair to say that none of us could have anticipated that on January 1, 2020 our lives would look so different in December due to a worldwide pandemic. I know for Tony and I personally, as the year marched on, so did our list of friends that battled COVID-19 and sadly, so did our list of friends that died of the deadly virus. And as if the virus wasn’t enough, it seems like we have a growing list of friends and loved ones that are raging other battles. Wildfires, job loss, suicide, relapse, metastasized cancer, addiction… the list grows as we close in on the end of 2020. It seems like the one thing we share in all of this is a collective trauma that comes from suffering or watching those we care about suffer. So much brokenness… a world longing for reconciliation on so many different fronts. I have also often heard myself exclaim the centuries old request “Come, Lord Jesus.” This longing I have, along with all of creation, to have all things made right again with the Creator seems like a beautiful solution to the mess 2020 has been.  Ironically, it’s what God’s people always longed for… a Messiah before Christ’s birth and a deliverer thereafter.  Humankind has always longed for this.

 

It’s the second day in Advent, a time where I try my best to make time and space for Jesus.  This year it seems hard.  Everything seems hard in COVID. We have decorated our home… and it’s ready but preparing our home for Christmas is not the same as preparing our hearts for Jesus. 

 

Our household is busy and excitingly buying and wrapping gifts for one another, but I know that all of this will bring only momentary happiness. What we all really need is more space… more space for Jesus, and the peace and joy only He can bring. That’s the true gift in all the hard this Christmas season of COVID 2020.

 

My favorite tree in the house is my Jesse tree. It’s a concept born out of Isaiah 11:1-11 where a promise is made that a new root will grow out of the stump of Jesse and bring salvation.  The ornaments are symbolic of several stories from scripture that remind me that God had a plan for us all along from the very beginning when He, His son Jesus, along with His Spirit, created this space I call home for a brief moment in the span of eternity.  Each story reminds me how people can make a real mess out of their lives when their priorities get misaligned with God and His kingdom.  These Bible heroes and their families struggled in the same ways my family does, just a different period of time.  History tells me my family is not alone in this.  It’s part of the human condition.  Lives and kingdoms fall apart when God isn’t the center.  We have a holiday to honor Christ’s birth where we ironically seem to create a perfect storm for messing up this order where we make Jesus our priority. Finding a PlayStation 5 this season is time consuming, inviting me to steer my attention from the only true gift that will leave us with contentment. That’s just one example. I could insert many examples in the PlayStation’s place. How do I get myself and those I love to value Jesus above all else, to see Him as the real gift? How do I get all of us to make space for Him? The Star Wars LEGO advent calendar and the Aldi Wine Advent Calendar, although fun and entertaining, will not help me or my family make this space for Jesus.

 

My burning bush ornament reminds me how God’s people desired a deliverer.  God gave them their temporary deliverer Moses.  My six-pointed Star of David ornament reminds me that God’s people desired a King. God gave them a temporary King in David. God knew all the temporary provisions He gave them were part of their story, but none would satisfy what was needed so He gave them, and all of mankind, Jesus.

 

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (Charles Wesley 1744) is one of my favorite Christmas hymns.

 

    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.

 

These words are prophetic to me this 2020. A year where freedom as we know it has been changed. A year where our fears have sometimes driven us to not be the people God created us to be. A year where our environments have exposed our sins and made them more obvious… a year we have cried out “Lord Jesus Come!”

 

This hymn so rich in theology gives us answers… for those of us needing rest, He is our rest. Strength and consolation are found in Him. Hope. Enough for everyone. He is our Hope. He is the dearest desire each of us really want this Christmas. Joy for all of us that long for Him.

Jesus has come.  God knew Moses, David and all the other giants of the faith we read about would not give us those things we really want. God knew the others could not secure our eternity. 

 

PlayStation 5’s look to be elusive this year. Discontentment is not. A few years ago, when our Christmas traditions were going to be different due to jobs and marriages, my family came up with a remedy to squelch our growing discontentment at the year being different. We baked 50 homemade muffins and boiled 50 hard-boiled eggs as the star attraction for our 50 paper sacks we filled with fruit, candy and other edibles. That and a carafe of hot coffee and cups were loaded, and we drove to the local homeless camps and offered them up for Christmas breakfast. We did this Christmas morning instead of unwrapping gifts.   The memory of one lady handing me her apple and explaining she could not eat it because she had no teeth and would I please regift this to someone else still warms my heart today.  Someone looking after her neighbor within a community I consider to be the “least of these” on Jesus’ list. Maybe this is how we help our families make space for Jesus. We make space for those he made space for and love Him by serving others. With all this great suffering comes so much need.  Maybe we don’t need a newer PlayStation after all.  

 

Hope has come, Joy has come…we only need to make space and time for Him.  May we all remember to anticipate Christ this last month of 2020.  The kind of Jesus we long and expect for may determine the kind of Christmas we get.


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