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.
Charles Wesley, 1744
What is your favourite Christmas carol? In spite of the almost complete lack of Jesus in our modern Canadian “holiday celebrations,” ask anyone this question and their face will almost certainly light up as they hear the tune of “Joy to the World” or Hark the Herald” begin to play in their head. There is a beauty and joy expressed by these carols, which touches a deep longing in each person’s heart for something or someone to shine a light into the darkness we see all around us.
Our Advent series “Christ in the Carols” will pair seven of the best loved Christmas carols with a bible reading that inspired it. Because these carols are so well known, it’s easy to sing along without paying much attention to the lyrics. It’s helpful to slow down and examine the words alongside the biblical text. Through song and scripture, this series aims to proclaim the gospel we have received in Jesus. As our hearts are lifted up in worship, we also pray that visitors will hear the message of hope that is good news of great joy for all people.
The carols we sing during Advent are like “waiting songs” that turn our hearts and minds away from the tinsel and traffic of commercial Christmas towards the One who satisfies our longings. As Christians, we live in an in-between time: the now and the not yet between Jesus Christ’s first and last coming. Our location in this in-between time places us in the midst of much darkness and the constant signals that all is not well in our sin-soaked world. Christian carols are not sentimental; rather they boldly respond to this tension with the unwavering assurance that Jesus “rules the world with truth and grace,” and will come again as Judge and King over all.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!
Glory to God, glory in the highest:
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
John Francis Wade (1711-1786)