Merry Christmas from RYM! We hope these resources bless your church and families during this Advent season. These resources are FREE for you to use and enjoy.
This FREE 6-week Advent study is meant to be an exposition and exploration of this “good news of great joy.” It is an introductory study, hence the title “Advent 101.” It is aimed at middle school and high school students, though I’ve personally taught it to adults as well. You know your church and your students best, so feel free to tailor this material to find the best fit.
RYM Worship is releasing Songs of Advent every Tuesday through December 22nd on YouTube. These songs will be released on Spotify soon thereafter.
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is an ancient hymn originating from Christian monasteries over 1200 years ago. It’s also one of the most earnest and beautiful songs of advent ever written. The word “advent” comes from the Latin word which means “arrival,” and this well-known Christmas hymn does an amazing job of putting the singer in two places at once in expectation of an arrival. On one hand, we sing from the perspective of the Old Testament Israelites, pleading for the advent of the Messiah to come and ransom us from our captivity and bring us home to our promised land. On the other hand, we sing as we are right now, awaiting the arrival of our blessed Jesus to come back and dwell with us in the New Heavens and New Earth. We wait for our God to come and be with us again, Emmanuel in the flesh.
It’s been said that Christians live in between two different advents. Every Christmas, we celebrate the first arrival of our Messiah in the manger while also looking forward to the day when he comes back in glory. This particular advent hymn sets us squarely within that tension of what has often been called the “already/not yet.” We live in a time of rejoicing, for Emmanuel has already come. Yet, we also live in a time of longing as we wait for the Judge of all the earth to return and renew this fallen creation. Both can be true at the same time. Both should be true. And both should be felt this Christmas, of all Christmases, as we look at the grief and turmoil around us while also setting our gaze on the hope that lies both before us and behind.
“How Long” is a new advent song written by Joe Deegan that seemed to fall right in line with how things have felt in 2020 as a whole. The phrase “how long” is repeated constantly throughout the Psalms (Psalm 13:1 - “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”)
Almost every instance of this phrase throughout Scripture is ripe with pleading and longing for God to change circumstances and heal suffering. The interesting part of all this is that God never directly answers the question of “how long” in the Old Testament. In fact, at the end of the OT, God closes the book and shuts the mouths of the prophets for 400 years. For four centuries, he does not speak a word to his people.
And then the Apostle John opens his gospel by saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14).
After 400 years of silence, God finally spoke to his people. And he only spoke one Word. And that one Word became flesh and made his home in the place that his people called home.
For every groaning soul and aching heart, for every tear that’s been shed this year, for every sorrow we’ve endured, for night we’ve cried, “How long,” rest assured, the Lord has answered his people. God has not remained silent.
When someone answers your question with only one word, it’s either because they do not care or because that one word is sufficient. In this case, it’s the latter. In this season of advent, may we all remember that the Word Made Flesh is the only Word our God needed to speak in order to save his people. Jesus is God’s answer to our sin, suffering and sorrow.
“Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” written by Charles Wesley in 1744, has been a favorite advent hymn of the church for almost three centuries now. Living in England at the time, Wesley took note of the rampant homelessness of orphans and widows in the cities around him, and he longed for someone to bring together the class divide in his country. In his studies, he looked to the Old Testament prophets who also longed for the coming of the Messiah in the midst of their own suffering, and he landed on Haggai 2:7, the inspiration for the hymn - “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.”
Wesley saw the connection between the first coming of the Messiah that the Old Testament prophets spoke of and the second coming that we ourselves await. He saw the tension of living between two different advents. And he saw the beauty of a baby who was born to deliver his people, not as an orphan, but as the Son of the living God, the ruler of the nations. A baby “born a child, and yet a king.”
This hymn reminds us of the wonder of Christmas while also pointing us to the day when our King returns. There have been many different tunes set to these lyrics over the years, but I wanted to try and capture an arrangement that felt that tension and longing. I wanted something a little bit sad and hopeful and earnest, all at the same time, because I imagine that’s exactly what Charles Wesley felt when he wrote these words. We hope this song is a blessing for you as you round down the craziness of 2020 and find time to remember the coming of the Messiah, the joy of every longing heart.
© Reformed Youth Ministries