I wrote this for a church newsletter quite a few years ago - 10 if i got my age right in the original Since then, the desire for the "perfect Christmas" has diminished, but the expereinces of life in this world have only increased the desires for a perfect one.
I am cursed to be an idealist and romantic living in a fallen world. That is, I have an idea of how things “should be” but I keep getting a glass of cold water reality thrown in my face. Not long ago, feeling whimsical, I wrote an e-mail to an old friend expressing my “Christmas longings”:
“I keep hoping for snow, for Santa to come down the chimney, for everybody to feel warm and happy, for chestnuts roasting on an open fire, for a sleigh ride, for the stores not to put up Christmas decorations or play Christmas music till the day after Thanksgiving, for artificial trees to be banned, to go out and find the perfect Christmas tree, for a feeling of total well-being as Susan and I sit and watch the twinkling lights on the fragrant tree, for hot chocolate and Christmas cookies, for an excellent Advent series and a never to be forgotten Christmas sermon, for the kids to be small again and for me to have the money I now have, to buy the present that will light Susan’s eyes and know when I buy it I did it, for peace on earth, goodwill to men, to go Christmas shopping with my parents and have dinner at Morrison’s in Pensacola, to have excitement and anticipation and the reality to match, for no one to be sick or die at least at Christmas, to conspire by the fire, to have the feeling that comes on the last day of school before the Christmas break, to face unafraid the plans we have made, to hear the ultimate performance of Messiah, for all seven of us to be home for Christmas . . .”
What should we make of such “longings”? Are they the whinings of a 54 year old man who has not yet learned to get a grip on reality? Or are they something else?
I prefer to think of them as longings for a world lost and not yet regained. That is, a longing for
and the World to Come. Eden
I do not mean that I believe that Christmas Past (in Eden) would have or that Christmas Future (in Heaven) will match my longings, but I do mean that such desires are longings for a better world — a perfect one. A world in which sin and all of the evil effects which follow sin are removed. Isaac Watts described it in Joy to the World:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found.
Christmas has its way of both stirring our longings and assuring us that all holy longings will be fulfilled — “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (I John 3:8b).
Christ’s coming at
which we celebrate at Christmas, means the beginning of the end for sin and sorrow and the promise that what has begun will one day be complete. As we sing in one of my favorite Christmas hymns, All My Heart This Night Rejoices: Bethlehem
Forth today the Conqu’ror goeth,
who the foe, sin and woe,
death and hell, o’er throweth.
We now live in the “in between times” — between the first Advent and the second, between the accomplishment and the consummation of our salvation. The time in which we live is a time of longing for what is not yet but is sure to be. Creation is waiting for its freedom from the curse:
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time (Romans 8:19 - 22).
What the creation unconsciously longs for, we who have already experienced the beginnings of our salvation, long for consciously:
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. But if we wait for what we do not yet have we wait for it in hope (Romans 8:23 - 25).
And what is it we are waiting in hope for? The resurrection of the body and with it a world in which, “There will be no more death or mournings or crying or pain.”. . . and . . . “No longer will there by any curse.”
Nothing will be entirely right — not you, not me, not Christmas, not anything in this time or this world. But we celebrate Christmas with hope that every good longing will be reality. The first Advent leads inevitably to the second Advent, when faith will become sight.