“Baby, all I want for
Christmas is you.” —Mariah Carey
I was in my teens when I
begged my mom to buy me the now played out Mariah Carey Christmas CD. She
consented to the purchase so long as she could take a Sharpie to any less than
modest album artwork. With that agreement made, I was free to wail along to
Mariah’s lovesick Christmas carols?at the push of a button.
Every year I’d sigh, “She
just gets me. All I want for Christmas is….” you can finish the stanza, I’m
sure. I hoped fervently that next year the songs would no longer ring true, and
I’d have someone special to share the most romantic time of the year with.
I don’t know when and
how Christmas became the most romantic time of the year, but a cursory glance
at the channel guide on TV makes it clear that I wasn’t alone in missing my
certain someone most at Christmastime.
Thankfully, I have
outgrown teen angst. Even so, Christmas marks the passage of time. Even with my
Mariah Carey days behind me, I can’t help but wonder if maybe next year I’ll have
someone beside me to enjoy my wonderful, loud, loving family
with, and if maybe my grandparents will hold on to life long enough to hold one
of my babies, too.
Or maybe not.
I find grace and fuel
for patience in this season of unknown by recognizing that my unfulfilled
longings are not in vain, nor are they more hurtful than those of others. Once
I am married I will trade these longings for another. Things on this side of
eternity have yet to be made right, and so our longings follow us.
“Long lay the world in
sin and error pining ‘til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.” —O, Holy
We will each be touched
to varying degrees by the brokenness unleashed by the Fall. There are no
loopholes in this. All of my married friends suffer. All of my single friends
suffer. Childless friends suffer, and friends with children suffer. This isn’t
cause for gloom. For each unique point of suffering there is also a correlating
joy, but as my friend who has a beautiful marriage and a precious daughter
simply put it, “It’s still life.”
That said, as singles longing
to enter the one relationship tasked with mirroring Christ’s great love for the
church, Christmas can be a time of subtle suffering not experienced by others.
Christmas celebrations revolve around family and children. Babies and couples
grace Christmas cards.?Christmas songs croon about keeping warm with lovers.
Christmas cheer is not entirely withheld from us, but these particulars tend to
fan the flames of longing more sharply.
As much as I might
desire to participate in those sweet aspects of the season, an honest look
reminds me they have little to do with Christ’s birth.
You see, Advent is all
about longing. It’s about waiting. It’s about hopes and fears.
“The hopes and fears of
all the years are met in you tonight…” —O Little Town of Bethlehem
In a recent conversation
with Dr. Del Tacket, he reminded us about the silence between Malachi and
Matthew. The wondrous prophecies of the Messiah were proclaimed and then were
followed by centuries of silence. Centuries of waiting … and waiting … and
waiting … until at last He appeared, and history was never the same.
As my younger brother
once said, “The incarnation is just the biggest deal.” It really is. We tend to
make Christmas all about Easter, and of course they are intrinsically woven together.
But the incarnation is the biggest deal because God became man not only to
ransom us from the curse of sin, but also to know us. To embody the God who
sees (Genesis 16:13); to be the friend who weeps
alongside us (John 11: 33-35); to be misunderstood,
betrayed, alone, reviled for us. He came as a vulnerable infant so that we
might have a high priest who sympathizes with our weakness, temptation,
suffering at every point yet without succumbing to sin (Hebrews 4:15). How humbling. How hope giving!
If Advent is about
longing and feeling the brokenness of life acutely, Christmas is about the
Savior who alone satisfies that longing and heals that brokenness. It’s a time
to allow the longings to propel us to Christ and bask in the enough and
more-than enough nature of God’s love.
“O tidings of comfort
and joy…” —God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
“I have told you these
things, so that in me you might have peace. In this world you will have
trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In Jesus’
words to His beloved disciples He tells them plainly: This world is going to
disappoint you, but this isn’t the end of the story. I have conquered the pain
and suffering that this world will bring your way. You can find peace in Me.
This isn’t trite positivity, friends. If it feels this way, I can only pray
that you will encounter anew the life giving power of God’s presence and the
tangible force of His comfort and joy.
“Jesu, Joy of Man’s
Desiring” —Johan Sebastian Bach
My other favorite
Christmas CD in my teens was Amy Grant’s Home for Christmas album. Among
many familiar favorites, it contained the classical piece “Jesu, Joy of Man’s
Desiring” by Bach. Its Celtic melody would set my feet dancing. It embodied
The German verse translated reveals its author has
encountered heartbreak, “Jesus remains my joy, my heart’s comfort and essence,
Jesus resists all suffering, He is my life’s strength, my eye’s desire and sun,
my soul’s love and joy; so will I not leave Jesus.” The title aptly
captures the depth of this truth. Jesus is the joy of man’s desiring; the joy
in our longings. Even when earthly hopes are satisfied, it is He who is truly, “our
soul’s love and joy.”
Wherever you’re at this Christmas, allow
your longings to testify to your need for a Savior and join the Psalmist in
remembering the One who remembers you, “O, Lord all of my longing is before
You; And my sighing is not hidden from you” (Psalm 38:9). Your sighs are not
hidden from Him. He came near. He did not stay silent. He took on flesh to be
your Immanuel. This is joyous news. This is enough cause to celebrate with
abandon this holiday.