Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
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.
“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus…” I turned to number 135 in the church hymnal as I readjusted my legs and bottom half for what felt like the 100th time. It was December 2011. I was thirty-seven weeks pregnant with our first child, Emerson and I was tired. I felt restless in the pew. I had been stretched, pulled, poked, prodded. I was beyond ready to meet our first child, our baby girl. And time seemed to stand still as I sat uncomfortable in that church pew.
But yet, this Advent meant more. The hymns meant more. Advent means “coming” in Latin. I really hoped this baby would be “coming” soon. But as I sat in the pew during that entire season, I resonated with Mary’s journey. Had she felt this way? Surely she had. She had waited, just like me. She felt uncomfortable, tired, overwhelmed. Yet, she was hopeful.
“Hope of all the earth thou art.” Was she scared like I was? As a first time mother, labor didn’t seem easy at all. “From our fears and sins release us.” Sitting there uncomfortable, I felt peace rush over me.
I awaited a great thing, just like Mary had that first Christmas. “Joy of every longing heart.” As Mary held Jesus for the first time, she felt joy like any mother would, but still beyond what we can imagine. I felt a little less annoyed by my discomfort and a bit more release.
In a way, aren’t we all Mary? Heavy, tired, scared, apprehensive. We spend all Advent waiting, squirming in the pew. We know He’s coming, “born to set thy people free.” As we finished the song “raise us to thy glorious throne” A tear ran down my cheek, not uncommon, I cry often in church. But this time, I was thinking about “from our fears and sins release us,” He is coming with so much promise. That heavy feeling, it won’t last forever. Joy is on its way. Jesus is coming.
Emerson was born right on time a few weeks later, six days before Christmas. It will remain my favorite Christmas. Even after two more children and many joyous dashes for the Christmas tree, I will always treasure the Christmas I spent pregnant and long expecting the most.
— Autumn Culbreth