The birth of Christ as a baby in Bethlehem is near. We can sense it in the air. Something, or in this case, someone, is coming. This is what we have been waiting for during this season of Advent. There's excitement all around us and within us. We prepare for his arrival. We ready our hearts to worship the King. We don't want to miss him. We want to be like the shepherds and run to find Jesus; not like the innkeeper with no room for him. We don't want to pass up the opportunity to be in the presence of Almighty God. And so, we ready ourselves.
During Advent we have heard the words of John the Baptist preparing the way for the Lord. We have reminded ourselves that although Messiah came in the form of a baby in Bethlehem, we continue to wait for him to come again, this time as King. We hear that the promises declared on previous Sundays of Advent will find its way to the womb of Mary. The waiting that has been forced upon us over the past three Sundays is brought to fruition…or has it? For even on this fourth Sunday we are reminded to anticipate Christ’s return and God’s future reign. The God who is now with us, Immanuel, in our midst, waits just as we do. We join with him, in his presence, waiting for his future reign.
In the meantime the Church prays:
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.
This prayer directs us to both the birth of Jesus and the return of Christ at the end of time. O Come, o come Emmanuel.
About the Art:
"The Adoration of the Shepherds" by Mattia Preti (1613-1699)
Although Mattia Preti spent much of his life elsewhere, he is traditionally associated with the city of Naples. Together with Luca Giordano, Preti extended the reputation of Neapolitan painting throughout Italy and internationally. He is forever remembered as a great artist of the Baroque movement. His works adorn most of the interior of St. John's Co-Cathedral in Malta. His contribution to St. John's is so immense, in fact, that he is buried at the church.
About the Music:
This version of "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" is arranged and performed by Brooke Brooks. Brooke works for the Biola University Conservatory of Music. Her recording of traditional Christmas carols and original tunes, entitled "Christmas Melodies," was released in 2010.