In this installment of our modern animated series which features the brothers who founded Methodism, John Wesley tells his brother Charles that the "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" Christmas carol he is writing will never catch on. (Spoiler alert: More than 250 years later, the hymn is an Advent staple in United Methodist churches.)
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Charles Wesley: Hey brother! I've been working on something. What do you think?
(Singing dramatically) Come, thou long-expected Jesus…
John Wesley: You wrote a Christmas carol Charles?
Charles: No John, an "Advent anthem"! I'm hoping it's going to catch on…
John: It won't.
Charles: Oh it will. It's a prayer about waiting for Jesus to come—in the past, in the future, and into our lives right now. It's quite clever—if I do say so myself.
John: I thought we talked about this. You can't keep writing songs with 100 verses like "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing." Nobody can stick with them!
Charles: First, "Tongues" only has 18 verses. And my Advent anthem has 2. It's 16 lines long, shorter than any sermon you'll ever preach.
Charles: And it's good. Listen to this, "Born to set thy people free." Our Jewish ancestors waited for the Messiah. We wait for Jesus to completely fill us. All of Creation waits. Whammo, Advent anthem!
John: I know what I'm waiting for, Charles… you to give up this "Advent anthem" thing. It's not going to catch on.
Charles: Maybe not, but if it does, I'll be here… waiting …for Christmas… for Figgie pudding…for presents… I still want a hula hoop...
These videos were produced as a 21st century follow up to the popular clip known as "Clayride: A Gallop Through United Methodist History." Find out more about the making of "Clayride" from the artists who created that 1984 classic.
What's your favorite hymn or worship song that your church sings during the Advent and Christmas seasons?
Charles corrects John; he hasn't written a Christmas carol, but an "Advent anthem." What's the difference?
Charles says that "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" talks about how, "Our Jewish ancestors waited for the Messiah. We wait for Jesus to completely fill us. All of Creation waits." What does he mean? Where do you see each of those elements in the lyrics of the hymn?
The word advent means "arrival of a notable person or thing." When we celebrate the season of Advent, we are waiting for that arrival. Why do Christians emphasize waiting? In what ways are we still waiting for Jesus's advent?
"Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" appears in The United Methodist Hymnal (196) almost exactly as Charles Wesley wrote it more than 350 years ago. Why do you think this hymn has endured for so long?
What's the hardest part of waiting for Christmas?
Bonus: John comments that Charles can't keep writing hymns as long as "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing." Check out the much longer, 17-verse version of the song in the United Methodist Hymnal, number 58.