Christmas is coming. Christmas!
Just that thought makes me giddy with excitement. I love the holiday season! My heart just sings at the beautiful, aching anticipation of Advent, leading up to the joy of Christmas Day. I am not much of a decorator—because really (sadly), I don’t have much skill in that department, but I do love setting up a tree, stringing up lights, playing Christmas music, and soaking up the general atmosphere of cheer that comes with the holidays.
There is great joy in the holiday season.
Can’t you just feel that glorious anticipation already filling the air?
But there is great longing too.
Have you ever noticed that for every joyful Christmas song there is another with a hint of sorrow, lightened by hope perhaps, but sorrowful all the same?
One of my favorite Christmas songs is O Come, O Come Emmanuel. The whole song—lyrics, music, and tone—rings with a heart longing for God With Us, for God to bring renewal and restoration to the broken.
It’s a song that echoes the cry of the Israelites in exile awaiting the arrival of the promised Messiah. Prior to Jesus’s coming, the Israelites experienced four hundred years of silence. Can you imagine? Four hundred years without word from the prophets or new revelation from God, clinging to the promise of a Messiah and the hope of coming restoration while the world seemed to descend further and further into chaos.
And then, in a not so silent or peaceful night, the Son of God entered the world, to be with us, born into the confines of human form in a musty stable. That’s the great and glorious wonder of Christmas. The Gift that inspires all other gifts. That God Himself would choose to inhabit weak, failing, limited human flesh and live among us to accomplish the great and glorious work of rescue.
Through Christ’s coming, through the gift of His presence and His sacrifice, we have a beautiful thing: restoration of relationship with God for all who believe. Peace and not enmity. Hope and not despair. Joy even in the midst of sorrow.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”
But longing remains.
We long still for the restoration of our world, for all to be made new.
I think that Christmas can be a time when this longing feels especially near and close to all of us, as if it is sharpened by the promise of joy. It is a beautiful anticipation at times. Almost a heart-wrenching sorrow at others.
The world is still broken, this longing reminds us. Hearts are still aching. Lives are still tainted by sin. We long, Lord Jesus, for all to be made right!
This longing is a good thing because it reminds us that we have a role as the redeemed people of God to participate in His work of restoration. We have a calling, my friends, to actively seek to bring peace and hope to our broken world, to be a light in the darkness that draws others to experience God’s love.
How do we do that?
There are many, many ways—too many to try to list here. But we can begin by learning to look beyond ourselves and our own needs, wants, and desires. What better time to begin than at Christmas, a time when we turn our thoughts toward giving to others?
We can begin by developing a selfless heart that values others above ourselves. What better way to train our hearts than in reflecting on the One who gave us all of Himself?
We can begin by living the two greatest commandments, the commandments Jesus exemplified in every aspect of His life on earth: Love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. And as we live in a way that reflects Jesus, we can take the opportunity to show those who are still longing for a Savior that the Messiah has come!
And as we long for restoration for our world, as we engage the hurting and the heartbroken with the love of God, we have a beautiful, wonderful hope to hold on to. Restoration is coming. Christ will return.
And all will be made new.
Enjoy this version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel!