Welcome to Day 3 of the “25 Days of Holiday Songs” Challenge. Today’s post is brought to you by Rev. Rebecca L. Torres-Holland, the author of
www.beckiewrites.com. Rebecca has written an amazing piece about her favorite Christmas hymns! Check it out behind the cut!
For me, Christmas time doesn’t truly begin until we gather at the church on a Sunday and the organist sounds the opening chords to Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” In my hometown, people begin putting the reindeer on the lawn as soon as the trick-or-treating is done; however, I don’t really start to get into the Christmas spirit until Advent begins. Advent is the time of preparation leading up the celebration of Christmas. Traditionally, it encompasses the first four to six Sundays before Christmas. Since I’m a pastor, I can’t help but think in “liturgical” or “church” time instead of secular time.
A Brief History of the Hymn
Charles and John Wesley were two brothers who started a church revival in England during the 1700s that carried all the way into modern times. Eventually, the seeds of faith that John and Charles planted would take root and become one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world, the United Methodist Church.
Charles came to be known as the “Bard of Methodism.” He is credited with writing over 5,000 hymns and poems. The brothers set Charles’s poems to the music of popular tunes at the time (a bit like if you wrote a poem today and set it to the tune of a modern pop song). Charles’s eloquent lyrics combined with popular melodies of the time made his work incredibly popular. You might be familiar with another one of Charles Wesley’s popular Christmas hymns without even knowing it. He is also the author of, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
The Wesley brothers published the hymns in affordable hymnbooks that common people could afford to purchase. The hymns of Charles Wesley became “portable theology,” that people carried with them across the ocean and spread throughout North America.
Why This Is My Favorite Christmas Song
It’s easy to see why the hymns of Charles Wesley became so popular. Charles was a talented, as well as a prolific, poet. I love poetry and I cannot help but appreciate the deep sense of longing that Wesley packs into just two short verses. Due to the pure beauty of the words, this is a hymn that can be appreciated even if one is not a Christian due to its own intrinsic artistic merit. The words of the poem ache with longing. The poet expresses a hope as well as a deep desire for a better world; one in which love and hope shall reign.
Try reading the words aloud. The text is musical in and of itself:
1. 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.
2. Born they 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 own sufficient merit,
Raise us to thy glorious throne.
This Holiday Season, it is my hope that all of us will raise our hearts and voices in song as we dare to hope for a brighter future.
Rev. Rebecca L. Torres-Holland, M.Div.
Rebecca is an aspiring author and a United Methodist pastor. She holds a B.S. in the English Education and a Master’s of Divinity. She blogs about ministry, books, and her life as a female clergywoman of color with a visual disability at www.beckiewrites.com. Her current work in progress is a book with the working title Share Your Story that will help to empower people who have been traditionally marginalized by the church to share their stories. Her views are her own.
Social Media Links:
Blog: Rev. Rebecca Writes: Read, Write, Pray. www.beckiewrites.com
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- Hawn, Michael. (n.d.). “History of hymns: hymn expresses the longing for the arrival of our savior. Discipleship Ministries. Retrieved from https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-hymn-expresses-longing-for-arrival-of-our-savior
- Julian, John. (1907). Dictionary of hymnology. Retrieved from https://hymnary.org/person/Wesley_Charles
- Hutchins, Charles. (1872). Annotations of the hymnal. Retrieved from https://hymnary.org/person/Wesley_Charles