Most of you know that “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is one of my all time favorite Christmas hymns. I mentioned that in our “Celebrating Advent” post in 2021. That hymn beautifully describes the Messianic longing of God’s people since the time of the Fall. In this post I will focus on the longing of God’s people that finds expression at Christmas time, even though we should think about it year round.
Our World is Broken
All humans have an internal longing for something or someone to save and rescue us. We enjoy stories that depict both the agony and pain we feel and the hope that comes from a rescuer. The existential longing for something more is depicted in the best of our literature, film, and other expressions of popular culture. Every one longs for a reality which is not dominated by pain and suffering. People will sacrifice almost anything to feel peace. In fact, happiness has become the dominating virtue of our day. We can all agree that our world is broken, that all is not well with the world. Brokenness and pain reveal the inner longing of our hearts.
Ultimately, we long for a Messiah to rescue us and make all the wrongs right. The Christian worldview provides the most satisfying answer to the inescapable questions of life and that can be demonstrated rationally and experientially.
I do not have to convince you that the world is broken. My point here is to invite you to think about the relationship between our agony and Christ’s advent.
We Need God’s Presence
The brokenness and pain of this world point us to another world, a world beyond the sun. A longing for God’s presence is felt uniquely at Christmas time. One of Christ’s names is “Emmanuel” which is nicely rendered “God with us” in English. The etymological development of that title for the Messiah is fascinating, but that’s a topic for another time. In this section I want to demonstrate that longing for Christmas is longing for God himself.
Our Future Hope: Shalom
We long for the Messiah who brings God’s perfect peace or Shalom. World leaders rightly discuss peace and work for it. Christians understand, though that final peace will not be realized until the kingdom of this world passes and the Messiah’s kingdom is fully realized. Our longing for peace on earth is echoed in our favorite Christmas hymns. I appreciate how the song “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day” does not describe a fairy tale land, but the real world which Longfellow described as,
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men
As people of Christ’s kingdom, we recognize that true peace only happens through a reconciled relationship to God. The peace Messiah will bring at the consummation of his kingdom is a peace that removes the curse of sin (Rev 22:1-2). Jesus’s kingdom is one where the lion and the lamb lie down together and the young child plays next to the adder without fear.
Our longing for peace is another indicator that our hearts long for Christmas.
We long for Christmas throughout the year because celebrating Christ’s first advent prepares us for his second advent. Though Christmas only comes once a year, our prayer for our readers is that God will continue to cultivate a greater longing in you for the Messiah. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Christ’s first Advent gives us the reset we need while we wait for his second. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
We hope you and your family had a Merry Christmas! We look forward to interacting with you here on the blog and on the podcast again in 2023. Happy New year, readers!