Christmas longings give our heart a chance to discover true fulfillment and joy …
Christmastime seems to heighten our personal desires and longings. I believe this is an opportunity for us.
C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory that we long for something from which we are separated. The Germans have a way of thinking about it. Sehnsucht (ZANE-zoocht) in the German is a word which means yearning, craving, “life’s longings.”
Something is missing, incomplete, and unfinished. We search for happiness while at the same time trying to deal with the reality of unattainable wishes. We experience the pain of incompleteness, of being separated. We’re not quite home. Sehnsucht can feel like a longing for a distant country, a country that we somehow know is familiar.
And so we long and yearn …
For all the anticipation and beauty of Christmas, the season can easily be a time of longing and nostalgia. We hope for what we desire. And longing is an aspect of our hope.
As we yearn for a solution, a resolution, it releases feelings of joy and sadness simultaneously.
Christmas longings are pointing to something more
As wonderful as things in life can be, they point us to something more wonderful still …
The truth is that nothing in this earth can finally satisfy us. Much can make us content for a time but nothing can fill us to the brim. The reason is that our final joy lies “beyond the walls of this world,” as J.R. Tolkien put it. Ultimate beauty comes not from a lover or a landscape or a home, but only through them. These earthly things are solid goods, and we naturally relish them. But they are not our final good. They point to what is higher up and further back…
These powerful, poetic words are penned by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. in Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living. What is “higher up and further back” is that sweet spot our soul craves. What is beautiful and blessed points to it.
Even if we fall deeply in love and marry another human being, we discover that our spiritual and sexual oneness isn’t final. It’s wonderful, but not final. It might even be as good as human oneness can be, but something in us keeps saying “not this” or “still beyond” … What Augustine knew is that human beings want God … God has made us for himself. Our sense of God runs in us like a stream, even though, because of sin, we divert it toward other objects. We human beings want God even when we think that what we really want is a green valley, or a good time from our past, or a loved one. Of course we do want these things and persons, but we also want what’s behind them. Our inconsolable secret, says C.S. Lewis, is that we are full of yearnings, sometimes shy and sometimes passionate, that point us beyond the things of earth to the ultimate reality of God.
Christmas is a time which heightens our expectation and desires. Christmas longings are a blessing. They give us the chance to quest for the ultimate satisfaction and joy …
“As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When can I enter and see the face of God?” (NABRE)
Augustine’s timeless, universal prayer is for us today … “O Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (Confessions).
So enjoy every good thing in life that displays the Creator’s glory. Our hope and longing this Christmastime, and throughout the year, is ultimately in “God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6).
photo: Creative Commons/Dave Williss