I used to think that Christmas was the happiest time of the year—the time when all your longings of the previous year would find fulfillment, when all the sadness would evaporate, when all of your blahs would culminate in inexpressible happiness. I used to think that Christmas was the joyous celebration of Christ coming and filling all of us with perfect satisfaction and contentment.
I am learning that that is not quite true. Actually, not true at all.
Christmas is perhaps the time of the year when our longings, not rather filled, are heightened. When our expectations are not rather realized, but further grown. When the ache we’ve had all year long is not rather satisfied, but ached and ached some more.
Christmas is not when Jesus comes and satisfies all our longings. Christmas is when we remember that our longings—for contentment, reunion, happy endings—aren’t enough. That anything we want for ourselves aren’t enough, because they’re too small. They are mere shadows of something more to come. Even the Baby in the manger and the Savior on the cross—as miraculous and comforting as He is, has only come in part. And the part that is left grows and grows and bores a hole bigger and bigger in our hearts … for His complete revealing.
We ache because we have tasted His love, but we want to taste more and we know that there is so much more left to be tasted. We ache because we feel the pull toward self-centeredness, self-worship, and self-darkness constantly tugging at us, toying with our fickle hearts. We ache because we see aspects of His reign in our world and in our hearts, but we want to see it with eyes of sight and not faith alone.
We ache to see the Reigning King and Lord of love. Who has conquered every square inch of this world, every injustice, every illness. But more than anything we long to see Him conquer the final enemy: our deathly wayward hearts.
And so Christmas for me is not the time of year when I sing for pure happiness at the jingle of the bell or the coming together of family or friends or even the arrival of the baby Jesus. Christmas for me is a time is a time to sit in a bit of sadness, as my heart cries, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
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
Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne