Songs of the Saints: While We Wait, We Sing

Come thou long expected, Jesus, born to set thy people free.

The value of something can be proven when it stands the test of time. Like the hymns we sing at church on Sunday, or at home any day of the week. These theological melodies are timeless and are worth our time, attention, and voices still today.


The sun blazes hot on the brown bristles of grass in my yard. Store aisles are lined with markers, file folders, and backpacks for the coming school year.

In these late summer days, the same Christmas song springs off my tongue as I scoop up my raging child to gently rock him in the bedroom. Its chorus lingers on my lips while I knead bread or wash dishes to get my mind off the twenty people that didn’t make it home from a trip to Wal-Mart after the recent, devastating shooting. I don’t sing it surrounded by holly or shiny garland. I sing it now in the face of evil:

Come thou long expected, Jesus, born to set thy people free.  From our fears and sins relieve us, let us find our hope in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art. Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart. 

The words leave me with an ache—Jesus is no longer here. But hope whispers—He’s coming back.

While we know the consummation of the promised Savior lying in a manger, we also know the promise that isn’t yet complete. Our Savior was born, lived, died, rose again, and he ascended. He left us. And now we lock hands with the likes of Simeon and the prophetess Anna and cling to the promise of our coming Savior. The words of that old advent hymn ring out the truth of the King who will come back to his people, and it reminds us what his absence means to us today.

Years ago, I might have sung this chorus with hesitation. Did I really want Christ to come back now? My young heart couldn’t see beyond my own world of friends and dreams of boys. Thankfully, time and the work of the Spirit worked on such a limited perspective. As my heart grew deeper in the knowledge of the goodness of Christ, I also grew in my understanding of evil. We all face this truth. We feel it in our daily battle with sin or the news feeds that fill our days with stories of suffering. “Come, Lord Jesus” is no longer a nice thought, but to Christians longing for our future home, it’s a desperate plea.

We cry, come back, King, who will put his enemies beneath his feet (1 Cor 15:25). Come back, Judge to sweep aside injustice with your righteous right hand (Ps 99:4). Come back, Savior, to free us completely from sin (Rom 8:30). Come back, Redeemer, and preserve your faithful remnant of followers (Micah 7:18). Come back, Comforter, to wipe the final tears from our eyes (Rev 21:4).

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