by Connice Dyar, Women’s Chaplain, Joe Gibbs Racing
I like to watch Christmas movies, but they all have pretty much the same storyline . The hero or heroine has a desire or longing for a special gift from Santa, many times it is very unselfish. At the end of the movie, the wish is fulfilled and you are always left with the impression that now their life is complete, they will not need anything more….
We are all familiar with that longing or desire for something that sometime we can articulate but sometimes we can’t articulate it.
And we know the feeling where we get what we desire and then wonder is that it? We get that thing we have longed for and think we will finally be happy and satisfied but it never really happens because we usually start longing for or desiring something else, something just out of reach.
This is really true of all us…. we were created with a longing for someone and something that this world can’t deliver.
We see this longing and desire in the Christmas story. It’s what Advent is about. It is the looking back and celebrating and spending time reflecting on the anticipation of the birth of Christ and what it means.
With the first Advent, the Israelites and been longing for a Deliverer, a Messiah for hundreds of years. They had been given pieces of information and prophecies about who this would be and how He would come. In fact, God gave the very first prophecy about the coming of the Redeemer in Genesis 3:15. God said there was one coming from the seed of the woman who would ultimately defeat the seed of the serpent. That was the first promise of the first Christmas, that there was one coming who would bridge the gap between man and God and turn back the damage done in the Garden with Adam and Eve.
And all thru the OT this promise was continually proclaimed and enlarged. The people of the OT put their faith in the coming of ‘The Promised One’.
But sometimes the people lost sight of this promise and the ‘Promised One’. The 400 or so years between the OT and the NT were a silent time for the Israelites. They didn’t really hear from God, no special revelation, and no prophets. But God had promised that he would keep a remnant, those that still believed and waited and anticipated the coming of the Promised One.
It must have been hard during that time to keep walking by faith and not by sight, to believe the promises of God in the midst of the upheaval and uncertainty for the Jews. They had no homeland, and were traded back and forth among rulers and governments until they finally came under the harsh rule of the Romans. Many of the Israelites wondered where God was and had he forgotten them and his promises.
It’s like us today. We look at all the brokenness around us and in us. All the hard things that this life brings and we wonder where God is and has he forgotten his promises and us. And we keep longing and desiring for things to be different.
Many of the Israelites did stop believing. They instead looked to the culture around them to bring them joy and to fulfill this longing God had placed in them.
And this is where we are most familiar with the Christmas story. In Luke where the angel comes to Zechariah and tells him that his barren wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son who would proclaim the coming Messiah.
We find that the young maid Mary would bear the Messiah and yet remain a virgin.
In that very first Christmas the angel hosts would loudly proclaim the truth of John 1:1-9,14.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Today as we celebrate Christmas, we are thinking back to that first Christmas and what it meant that God came to dwell among man. Because God became flesh, He provided the way for us to be reconciled to God and to live in relationship with Him. But even as we embrace that and celebrate what Christmas really means, we are still left with a longing in this world. And it should cause us to remember that we will always have a certain longing in this world because we were not created to be satisfied and feel at home in this world.
CS Lewis says:
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
We should at Christmas recognize that the coming of the Last Christmas, by the 2nd Advent of Jesus himself, will only ultimately satisfy our longings in this world.
As we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating that Jesus has come, and his birth, death and resurrection has brought peace in our hearts, but we still long for more…we long for all our longings to be put to rest.
Every Dec. 25 marks another year that draws us closer to the end of the ages, closer to our true home…to the new heavens and earth where all are longings are filled.
When we realize that Jesus is the answer to our deepest longings, even Christmas longings, each Christmas brings us closer to the final Christmas, when Jesus returns.
We stand here in a unique place…looking back to how God fulfilled his promises in Jesus and we look forward to how God continues to keep his promises in the return of Jesus. In Acts 1:10-11, as the disciples watched Jesus ascend into the heavens, two angels appeared and asked the disciples why they were staring into the sky. The angels said, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into Heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
When Jesus returns, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, that will be some Christmas! It will be the Last Christmas.
In Revelation as it describes this final Christmas Celebration, there is amazing music and singings, just like our Christmas celebrations now.
Rev. 19:6 says there will be singing and carols like never heard before…
“Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.”
“They hold harps given them by God…
And they sing the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, ? O Lord God the Almighty! ?Just and true are your ways, ? O King of the nations!”
The decorations there will be far more beautiful decorations than we can imagine here.
Rev. 21:21 says the 12 gates were 12 pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street was of pure gold, like transparent glass.
And as much as we love candles at Christmas, there will be something so much better at this last Christmas:
Rev. 22:5 says there will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp, or candles or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light and they will reign forever and ever.
You see, the last Christmas is about to happen! We stand at the edge of this great celebration.
So what does this mean for us today?
One, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have longings or desires. Many of those longings are good and come from God. Should we not desire and long to win another NASCAR championship? Absolutely not! But winning another one will not solve all our longings and will not bring us the complete joy and satisfaction we crave. We will keep looking for other things. God many times blesses us with fulfilling our desires, but it should cause us to give Him the thanks and worship as the Giver of good gifts. He never intends for us to replace the Giver with the gift. We should realize that God never intended for the things of this world to bring us ultimate joy and satisfactions. When we are disappointed and discouraged we should try and think, ‘what is it that I’m thinking this relationship or this possession will bring me? Am I looking for happiness or validation or contentment from this thing or this person? ‘
We need to remember Jesus’ words, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the Life.’
Only through Jesus and by Jesus do we find and experience Life and the right focus and object of our longings and desires.
Secondly, as we are here at this point in time, as we look back in worship to the first Christmas and look forward in anticipation to the Last Christmas, it should give us hope. Hope because God is the keeper of his promises. The Promised One did come just as God promised and said he would, and Jesus is coming back just as God said he would.
It gives us hope because it shows that God is good and can be trusted.
My 82 year old Mom, who has dementia, and is confused about most things…. is not confused about this. I asked her last week what she wanted for Christmas. She said she wanted to go ‘home’. I asked her what home did she mean and she looked at me as if I was the ‘confused one’. She said, “to heaven of course. I won’t need my glasses and my mind and legs will work. There is nothing that this world has that I want.” My Mom has it right…she is longing to experience the ‘last Christmas’.
Remember that Christmas is an invitation to a celebration about to happen. It is an invitation so make sure you know the Host of this great celebration, Jesus himself. And remember when you have longings, don’t let them make you despair or give up, let them turn you to the only one that can ultimately fulfill them, Jesus, “The Promised One.”