SERMON TITLE: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
TEXT: Psalm 33 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church as we begin our Christmas series. And one thing I want you to know — and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time with us or if you’re worshipping at our North Main campus — is that God loves you and I love you too.
And this Christmas season we’re going to take some Christmas carols and allow them to be our guide as we head towards Christmas Day. And I’m sure you’ve noticed how Christmas can be a busy season of the year making it easy to miss the beauty of the season — the season of Advent — the anticipation of the birth of our Savior.
So — to help us all slow down and reflect on this important season of our faith — we've created these Liturgy Cards as a free resource to help you walk through the weekly themes of Advent. On the front is a piece of original artwork that corresponds with the sermon being preached each week. And on the back you’ll find various resources you can use throughout your week to help you focus on the coming of Jesus this Advent season. We hope this resource will be a blessing to you.
Now the Christmas carol we’re using as our guide today — has an opening line that I’m sure you’re familiar with. The opening line is this: Come thou long expected...Christmas morning so we can open all of the Christmas presents!” Wait — that’s not how the carol goes, but — if we’re honest — that’s what life can feel like.
Do you remember being a kid on Christmas Eve night? Do you remember being so excited that it was impossible to fall asleep? Or maybe you were like me, going to sleep wasn’t the problem — sleeping in on Christmas Day was the problem — you were the kid who woke up way too early for your parents. But no matter which one you were — the “I couldn’t get to sleep” or the “I’d wake up way too early” — all of the excitement was about the presents, right? Come thou long expected Christmas morning so I can unwrap all of those presents I’ve been hoping for.
We all know what it’s like to expect something great to happen — don’t we — especially at Christmas time. And sometimes in the excitement and anticipation — we misplace our hope. Now hear me out — Christmas presents aren’t evil — Jesus got three of them — but have Christmas presents replaced our expectation and hope for Jesus?
Or let me ask it this way: As Christmas approaches — what do you most hope for? Do you hope for Jesus or do you hope to get the coolest gadget that’s being promoted this year — or that must have toy or video game — or even that diamond ring from Jared's? What are you hoping for this Christmas season?
Now — today — when you think about Christmas, it’s easy to wonder, “How in the world did Christmas become so commercialized?” I mean, when did Christmas become less about Jesus and more about food, cheesy holiday movies, decorations, and presents? It may seem like the “war on Christmas” — or whatever it’s called — is a rather recent phenomenon — but in actuality — the temptation to shift our focus away from Jesus — at Christmas — has been going on for a long time.
Christmas ornaments became popular in our country when the department store, F. W. Woolworth, put them on sale. Their ornaments sold out within a few days. That was in 1880.
Santa Claus has been around for a long time, but it wasn’t until the 1920s — when Coca-Cola popularized Santa — that he went from looking scary to looking jolly.
Montgomery Wards published a book in 1939 that popularized Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.
And then there’s Black Friday. Believe it or not, Black Friday’s the new kid on the block. It didn’t become popular until the 1980s.
And all of this has resulted in — for many of us — a shift of our hope at Christmas — from Jesus — to stuff. And the commercialization of Christmas has led to us spending some serious money on the holiday. Get this — during the Christmas season, Americans spend over one million — nope — one billion — nope — one trillion dollars on gifts. Crazy, right?
Now who thinks that women spend more money on Christmas gifts than men? OK. Who thinks men spend more money on Christmas gifts than women? Who spends more? Men do!
Now — as I’ve said — there’s nothing wrong with purchasing and giving gifts. However, there is something wrong when our hope is wrapped up in giving and receiving gifts. And there’s no way to deny it — that our country finds its hope in Christmas presents — when we’ve got a trillion dollar price tag as evidence against us.
But for us — rather than finding hope in the gifts we’ll give and receive — this Christmas I want us to look to the gift God has given us in His Son — Jesus.
And while we still have some time — before Christmas is here — I want to help us shift our focus and learn for the first time — or maybe remember again — of the hope that only Jesus can give. And as others look for hope in all kinds of places — this Christmas season — we’ll find the true hope that God has made possible by sending His Son to be born as a baby — and that we — rather than singing, “Come thou long expected Christmas morning” — that our lives will sing of the hope that’s found in the words, “Come thou long expected Jesus.”
If you have your Bible please turn with me to Psalm 33. We’ll be looking at all 22 verses.
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text your question in to the number on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
Here are the words found in Psalm 33. Beginning in verse 1.
“Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. 2 Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. 4 For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. 6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! 9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. 10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. 11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! 13 The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; 14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, 15 he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. 16 The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. 17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. 18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, 19 that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. 22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” (Psalm 33:1-22 ESV)
Since “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” is setting our theme for today, I thought it’d be helpful to learn a little about the carol and how it connects to the birth of Jesus. The carol was written by Charles Wesley — the younger brother of John Wesley. Charles wrote over 6,000 hymns including “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” he wrote “And Can It Be that I Should Gain,” he also wrote the Christmas carol “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Now our carol — Come Thou Long Expected Jesus — was written in 1744, but it wasn’t until 1844 that the melody we sing was written for the song.
Wesley based the carol on Haggai chapter 2 verse 7 as he reflected on the orphan crisis going on in Britain in the 1700s — as well as the social class division. So here’s the verse that inspired our Christmas carol.
“And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:7 ESV)
Now — you should know — that I considered preaching this verse today, but figured that would feel really weird — because Haggai 2:7 doesn’t scream Christmas, does it?
Well here’s why this verse inspired our Christmas carol. Wesley saw this verse as a promise of the hope that Jesus’ birth brought. Wesley saw — in Haggai 2:7 — a pointing — not just to a baby being born in a manger — but to the time when that baby would return to the earth a second time to make all things right. One author has said, “As Wesley considered the plight of so many in the world and then thought of Jesus’ birth, a hopeful thought consumed him. With great anticipation he found himself looking toward the second coming of Christ, desiring to [look forward to it] with as much zeal as the writer Haggai had looked forward to the Lord’s birth.”
And that’s a great goal for us: To look to Jesus with great hope this Christmas season — for as our carol says — He is the hope of the world. So let’s look to Jesus with the same kind of expectation filled hope that the prophets had when they looked forward to the birth of the promised Messiah. Let’s look to Jesus — our Savior and King — the hope of the world.
This is why I love how Psalm 33 begins. We’re told to...
“Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. 2 Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.” (Psalm 33:1-3 ESV)
If you believe in Jesus — if your hope is in a baby — who was born of a virgin — who grew up and died on a cross for your sins — and the sins of the world — then sing!
Be joyful — God’s saved you!
Praise God — He did for you what you could not do for yourself!
Shout for joy to the Lord! Praise God! Thank Him! Sing to Him a new song! Hope in God!
“Well, I don’t like to sing.” Oh yeah. Let’s try something. “O-H (I-O).” If you just responded — you may not realize it — but you just proved that your lungs and your vocal cords work properly and you have the ability to sing.
When the worship team is leading us, some of you act like the Michigan fans when they realized what was happening when I said “O-H.” Michigan fans were all like, “No way! I’m not opening my mouth.” And that’s OK when it comes to college football loyalty.
But is that OK when it comes to worshipping God? How can it be if your hope is in Jesus?
You sing about what you love. You sing about what gives you joy. You sing about what excites you.
What does it say about us who say we’re a follower of Jesus — and yet — refuse to sing and praise the One who saved us? We sing about what gives us hope.
And in this psalm we find three reasons to sing.
REASON TO SING #1 — GOD’S WORD (v4-9)
The first reason we’re to sing is because of God’s Word. Look with me in verse 4.
“For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. 6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! 9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” (Psalm 33:4-9 ESV)
We’re to sing because God’s Word gives us hope. First, we see that the Bible is upright. That means it’s an unchanging standard, it’s correct, it’s genuine, it’s truthful, it’s faithful. And the uprightness of God’s Word is directly related to the holy character of God. Meaning we can trust God’s Word because we trust the character of the God who’s given it to us — who spoke it to us — who’s given us His commands in written form.
Second, look at what the psalmist tells us about God. He tells us that God loves righteousness. He loves justice. He’s covered the earth with His “steadfast, never-ending, won’t give up on us” love. We see that God creates through His Word — God the Father speaks and His Word makes all things.
What does all of this mean? The psalmist tells us that it means we’re to be in awe of God — we’re to fear Him — meaning we’re to worship God above everything else and we’re to be so mesmerized by His beauty and power and majesty and holiness and love and wrath — and all that God’s Word says about Him — we’re to be so in awe of Him that worshipping anything other than God terrifies us.
How different would we be if worshipping anything other than God terrified us? How different would we be if we so soaked ourselves in God’s Word that who it says He is — is who we believed Him to be? What kind of hope would we have if — for instance — we trusted in His “steadfast, never-ending, won’t give up on us” love?
We sing because God’s Word gives us hope.
REASON TO SING #2 — GOD’S WILL (v10-12)
The second reason we’re to sing is because of God’s will. Look with me in verse 10.
“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. 11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” (Psalm 33:10-12 ESV)
We sing because God’s will gives us hope.
We see here that nations make plans — yet God’s disrupts their plans — their plans become nothing — why — so His will takes place. People make plans — yet God frustrates their plans — why — so His will takes place. God’s plans — do you see in verse 11 — God’s plans come from His heart which is set towards His people — God’s plans are accomplishing what His heart wants for His people. And God’s plans stand forever.
When I think of God’s will, I think of passages like Ephesians chapter 1, which states, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him (in Jesus) we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him (in Jesus) you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV)
Those who believe in Christ are blessed in Christ — a blessing that was established before the foundation of the world — a blessing that’s according to the purpose of God’s will — and He is working everything out in accordance with His will — so that we — who believe in Jesus — experience the final destination where His blessings lead — to our eternal inheritance that we will receive at the fullness of time — living in the presence of God in the New Heavens and Earth for all eternity.
And when I think of these kinds of blessings — when I dwell on God working out all things towards this kind of end on my behalf — on our behalf — I’m filled with hope. My future is bright! And so is yours — if you believe in Jesus.
And — as the psalmist says — the nation — the people — who put their hope in God alone — who trust in His plan and purpose for them — the people who God has chosen as His family — the psalmist says — they are blessed. And I think, “What else could they be but blessed?”
What a reason to rejoice. What a reason to have hope. What a reason to sing!
We sing because God’s will gives us hope.
REASON TO SING #3 — GOD’S WATCHES (v13-19)
The third reason we’re to sing is because God watches. Look with me in verse 13.
“The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; 14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, 15 he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. 16 The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. 17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. 18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, 19 that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.” (Psalm 33:13-19 ESV)
We sing because God is watching us.
Did you notice how these verses tell us that God is aware of all that’s going on? God looks down and He sees — He looks out on all of us and observes our deeds — the psalmist says “the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him” — meaning His watchful protecting eye is on those who hope in His steadfast love.
There’s never been — or will be — a time in your life — or my life — that God is unaware of. And this truth does one of two things to you.
First, it may be very oppressing to you. You don’t like the idea of God watching over your shoulder — knowing all that you do — the whole idea sounds oppressive to you.
The other response is the opposite. Knowing that God is always watching you is freeing. Freeing because you know that He loves you so much that He’s always aware of what’s going on in your life. He’s never so preoccupied with something else that He’s distracted from you. His watching is a sign of His love for you.
Oppressive or freeing — which is it for you?
But notice how there’s a connection between our response to God watching us and where we put our hope. Those who don’t hope in God — who put their hope in armies or strength or war horses — end up putting their hope in things that are sure to fail them — as the psalmist says — in “false hopes for salvation.”
But — for those who hope in the steadfast love of the Lord — His eye is always on them. And He offers — not a false hope of salvation — but the true hope of salvation that’s found in Jesus.
And as we head towards Christmas — though we’ve exchanged armies and war horses for gadgets and games and diamond rings — many put their hope in things that end up failing them because they’re “false hopes for salvation.”
Now it’s easy to see this — this looking for hope in all the wrong places — in others, isn’t it? But it’s so hard to see in ourselves. You can spot it in the person who puts their hope in money, or in a relationship, or in their career, or their stuff, or in being famous, or in having that present under the Christmas tree. It’s easy to see how none of those things satisfy for very long — none of them give the hope that’s being searched for — it’s easy to see in others but difficult to spot in ourselves — but it’s there in all of us. And this reveals to us the brokenness — the hopelessness — of the world we live in — the brokenness in all of us.
And in experiencing this hopelessness, some have tried to turn away from stuff and have turned to religion — maybe even to what they think is Christianity — but here’s the difference between religion and the Christian faith. For the religious person, their hope is — in some way — attached to their performance. Here’s what I mean — here’s how a religious person views hope. Jesus + my effort = hope. Jesus started the hope giving process, but if I mess up or if I don’t measure up then all hope is gone. And — the failure here — is that in the name of Christianity someone fails to rest in the hope that simply trusting in Jesus alone gives.
And that’s really the key as to what it means to be a Christian — a follower of Jesus — to have received the gift of hope that’s offered to us in Christ. You trust in Jesus alone for your hope. So, for example, say you’re suffering. The suffering Christian has hope — in spite of their suffering — because their hope is in Jesus and not solely in their suffering going away. Afterall, they worship a Savior who suffered. And Jesus’ suffering reminds them that they’re not alone — they have a Savior who sympathizes with them because He suffered.
But even beyond that — the Christian faith teaches that you can be suffering and have hope — not only because your Savior suffered — but because you know that your Savior will return one Day as a conquering King — and on that Day He will make all things right — including your suffering. Now that’s a reason to sing.
And all of this adds up to one thing — have hope! In verse 20 we read...
“Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. 22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” (Psalm 33:20-22 ESV)
This Christmas season — instead of waiting to open the perfect Christmas present — wait for the Lord. For the Lord is your help. The Lord is your shield. He makes our hearts glad. His name is to be trusted above all else. And — as we hope in Him — His steadfast love is upon us.
And the Lord we are to hope in is the baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. The baby born on Christmas Day is the Word of God. In the gospel of John we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'") 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:1-5, 14-17 ESV)
Jesus is upright — He’s unchanging, He’s correct, He’s genuine, He’s truthful, He’s faithful. Jesus shows us the holy character of God in high definition. Jesus is the Word of God who gives us hope.
And...“He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20 ESV)
Jesus is the One through whom all things were created. He’s the head of the church. He’s reconciling all things to Himself — making peace on earth through His blood — which He shed on the cross — thus fulfilling the will of God. Jesus fulfilled the will of God, which gives us hope.
And Jesus watches over you. He’s promised to never leave you nor forsake you. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who watches over and protects His sheep. He even walked through the dark valley of death on your behalf, so you need not fear, but can know that death has been conquered. And now you can sing — with great hope — “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” — as you look — not to death — but to your Savior — and shout — “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57 ESV) Jesus is always watching, which gives us hope.
What will you put your hope in this Christmas season? The only hope that’s sure to last — is the hope offered to us in our Savior who was born — the One who is the hope of the world. This Christmas season, may we sing of the hope that’s found in Jesus. “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” Come and be our hope this Christmas.
Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us a guaranteed reason to have hope. You sent Your Son to be born of a virgin so that hope would enter this broken world. And hope is what Jesus offers to all of us today. He offers us a reason to sing because of the hope we have in His coming to our world. The hope we have in Him being Your Word. The hope we have in Him accomplishing Your will. And the hope we have in knowing that He is always watching for us because He cares and protects us.
Help us — Father, Son, and Spirit — to put our hope in and keep our hope in You this Christmas season and all the days of our life.
We pray these things In Jesus’ name. Amen.
May you go singing because of the hope you have in Jesus.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.