December 5, 2020

Desire of Nations

December 5, 2020


Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Isaiah 40:1-11
John 1:19-28


Isaiah 40 is perhaps the most beautiful text that is traditionally read during Advent. We hear parts of it sung in Handel’s Messiah, and its opening words bring comfort in difficult times.  We wait in hope for the time when our “Sovereign Lord comes with power and rules with a mighty arm” (v. 10) – the time when, as Isaiah 60:3 puts it, “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” It is not only God’s mighty arm that saves us. God is like a tender shepherd who “gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (40:11).

Georgia Harkness (1891-1974) was a Methodist theologian, professor, and hymn writer. She led the movement for women to be ordained in the Methodist church and was loved by her students. The hymns she wrote express the world’s need for the saving grace of Jesus Christ. As the first week of Advent 2020 draws to a close, we despair over the conflicts and troubles of the world’s nations—the trials suffered by earth’s people from the pandemic, famine, war, and oppression. Our prayer is for the coming of the Light, for the nations to gather in unity on God’s Holy Mountain and partake of the feast God prepares. “Hope of the world, thou Christ of great compassion, speak to our fearful hearts by conflict rent. . . . Still let thy spirit unto us be given to heal earth’s wounds and end all bitter strife” (“Hope of the World,” UMH 178, see also “This Is My Song” UMH 437.)


  • If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we are one small world. What happens in China and Italy, and everywhere else affects all of us. What desires do we share with other nations?
  • “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” illuminates names or aspects of Jesus. What other names or attributes do we know Jesus by?


On “Day 6” we pray as we sing:

O come, Desire of nations, come, all peoples in one heart and mind.

From dust thou brought us forth to life; deliver us from earthly strife. Refrain: “Rejoice, rejoice.”