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The Secret Longings of Christmas

DSC_3703_2Dear Readers,

Does the thought of Christmas wear you out? I’ve felt that way at times, and then I had an epiphany (see below). Christmas has taken on a whole new meaning for me now.

Our theme this month in the magazine (click on Editor’s Letter) is Busting Stress. You will find an article or two related to job loss as well.

To all of you, both near and far, I wish you the most blessed Christmas ever.

Peace, Ruth

The Secret Longings of Christmas

tree“Bah Humbug!” you say. “I may love Jesus, but you can have these commercial Christmases. And if I hear one more sappy rendition of Frosty the Snowman, I’m going to lose my mind!”

Over the years I’ve been troubled by the increasing secularization of Christmas, by the distortion and even outright rejection of the true meaning of the season. But last year I had an epiphany. As I shopped, I couldn’t help but marvel at all the festive decorations in the stores—everywhere displays glittered in gold, silver, holly red, pine green. I was struck by the sheer beauty and splendor of it all. Driving home I passed one house after another decorated to the hilt with twinkling lights, Santa and his reindeer or smiling snowmen. The thought occurred to me, “It looks like the whole world is throwing a party!” And this got me thinking…

A deeper meaning.

Why would a society that has essentially rejected the babe in the manger go to such lengths to celebrate? “Christmas makes money,” you say. But why does Christmas make money? What is Christmas selling? I decided to set aside my frustration with excessive holiday consumerism and probe deeper.

Could it be that all this Christmas madness actually expresses deep longings of the heart? They say that Christmas turns the heart toward home. I pondered connections. Christmas/home. Heaven/home. This led to the following question:

How are the ways we celebrate Christmas tied to universal longings which can only be fulfilled in heaven?

Christmas takes us home.

The song says it well:

I’ll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents under the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light beams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

The universal longing: The lyrics, “Christmas Eve will find me where the love light beams,” evoke warm images of family and friends gathered around a softly lit tree, a fire crackling in the hearth, of laughter and gentle words of encouragement. Home is supposed to be the place where we belong. Where we’re accepted and loved. Where we enjoy the company of our loved ones. It’s a place of comfort, peace and safety. Home is a shelter, a refuge from the harsh elements. The place to come in from the cold for a cup of hot chocolate after playing in the snow.

Home is a cherished ideal in our hearts, especially because of what we believe it’s supposed to be and often is not. Many times our homes do not protect us from the cold realities of life. They’re not places of warmth and acceptance. And so we yearn for harmony in our relationships and peace in the world.

But perhaps the most unsettling truth about the earthly places we call home is their transitory nature. Something inside our souls is restless for permanence. For that place where we’ll never have to say goodbye ever again, to anyone or anything.

The fulfillment: Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” When we finally arrive on heaven’s doorstep, the door will be flung wide open and our loved ones will greet us with cries of joy. We’ll be immersed in one eternal hello, surrounded by pure love, bathed in a deep sense of belonging and acceptance. And we will finally have come in from the cold to the ultimate welcoming warmth, safe shelter, and comforting refuge.

Christmas whispers romance.

The universal longing: There’s a certain romance about Christmas. It’s a time when we want to be especially close to our significant other. To snuggle by the fire as Christmas music plays softly in the background. To go for a walk in the snow. To maybe even playfully toss a few snowballs at each other!

I remember that first Christmas after I’d fallen in love with my husband-to-be. The whole world seemed lit just for me. I dreamed of a white Christmas and “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” He brought me a dozen red roses and I skated on air. Everything about Christmas that year shimmered with promise.

Every now and then I give the mistletoe hanging in my entryway this season a wistful glance. Oh to be young again! And then there comes this quiet yearning. But I ask myself, “Do I really want to go back to that twenty-two year old girl in love?” No, the older I get the more I recognize this feeling. I believe my heart aches to be with the only One who could ever fulfill my deepest needs for romance and love—I’m longing for Jesus.

The fulfillment: Heaven will be the culmination of history’s greatest love story ever written—of Christ and his bride. Since we were created for a person, our hearts cannot help but deeply long for Him until one day we’re clasped forever in His arms.

Christmas throws a party.

The universal longing: People love to celebrate. Think about how we do it. The food. Christmas dinner. Office parties. The glorious decorations. The gifts. The music. And light. Lights everywhere.

And we use Christmas to create a magical world for our children. Why? Perhaps there’s a part of us that misses the childlike qualities of innocence, the capacity for wonder and awe, the uninhibited joy. Underneath all this celebration, aren’t we just longing to be happy?

The fulfillment: Picture our open-mouthed wonder and awe when we walk through those pearly gates! It will be like a magical Christmas, only far better! The music? I imagine angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus. The decor? Streets of transparent gold, city walls sparkling with sapphires, emeralds, topaz, and amethysts. And brilliant light everywhere. Revelations 21:23 tells us, “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the [glory of] God will give them light…”

We will be allowed to enter where the tree of life stands, rejoicing in the most precious gift ever given—eternal life. And as if that isn’t enough, our Lord will pass out more presents. In Revelations 2 we read about some of these gifts: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life…I will give the crown of life…I will give him a white stone with a new name written on it…I will give him authority over the nations…I will give him the morning star.” Wow.

Then, not unlike Christmas dinner with our dearest loved ones, we will be ushered into the wedding feast of the Lamb, a room pulsating pure, unrestrained, intoxicated joy. And I will so look forward to indulging in all that good food without giving a moment’s worry to my hips! Talk about a party. Glorious ambiance, delectable food, music that will make you want to dance, all the people you love…

Oh, I’m going to want to be home for that heavenly Christmas. But for now, it shall remain “only in my dreams.”

  1. Good words, Ruth, and true, I think.

    Comment by Kay Smith — December 1, 2010 @ 9:11 pm