As I have reflected further upon the topic of Advent as a season of aching, longing emptiness, which I wrote about in the last post, I have been taken back to the realization of the important role of music during this time of the year. During the time around Christmas, our hearts and lips are tuned to sing more than most other times of the year. In Christmastide (Christmas and the days thereafter), our songs are those of hope arrived, joy fulfilled, peace on earth, and love’s dawn. But in Advent, our songs express the various sentiments of preparation: feelings of longing hope, expectant joy, wishing for reigning peace, and yearning for lasting love. Advent is meant to prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming…not just in the past as the Infant of Days in the manger, but also in looking forward to his return as triumphant King. As each year we step backward in time, into the shoes of an exiled people, a group who was feeling out of place, whose home had been taken from them, I realize that Advent adequately portrays our current place in time and space, and I’m drawn toward the songs that describe the longing for the coming of a promised deliverer. Not “deliverer” in the sense of one who will “Take me outta this earth!” but as one who will deliver the things longed for, the fulfillment of hope and joy, the bearer of peace, good will, and agape love. In this way, Advent, its themes, and hymns are meant to tie together the first (already) and second (not yet) comings of Christ on earth. Hence, Advent is about yearning for Christ’s “kingdom [to] come…on earth as it is in heaven.” One of my favorite of these hymns of longing was written by Charles Wesley, called ‘Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,’ which is often sung during this season of longing and preparation.

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.

Advent’s songs are about this yearning. It’s like the prelude to a kiss. When captured in a picture, the moment right before the couple’s lips meet brings out this sense of longing for the kiss to be fulfilled.

almost kiss

In the Incarnation of Christ, divinity and humanity come together & meet in one person. In the coming kingdom, that which is already and that which is yet to be fulfilled are drawing nearer to one another, yearning and waiting for the completion of the union between earth and heaven. May we echo with Charles this season of Advent, “Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.”

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