Christmas! The season brings to mind words like celebration, joy and delight. And yet, celebrations can fall flat, joys can be short-lived and delight can be overshadowed.
Nostalgia floods us with wonderful memories. It can also leave us longing for the way things used to be. We miss family, home, traditions. We feel deeply the changes months and years and decades bring. We mourn unrealized dreams and expectations even as we celebrate the moments of the season.
And for some, this ache isn’t just at Christmas. It’s a matter of course in daily life. Life has had unexpected twists and turns which leave you wounded, out of place, never able to fully rest or enter into life.
I wonder if Jesus felt this way as he entered our world that Christmas night long ago.
While sin was anticipated and allowed, it wasn’t intended. God intended life, perfect and abundant. God could have wiped his hands of the mess and walked away. Instead, he entered it. He became a part of it with the intention of redeeming and restoring his creation to himself.
When Jesus entered our world, he was out of place from the very beginning, a baby born amongst animals. Imagine leaving a world where there is no busyness, no misunderstandings, no darkness. A world where food is more delectable than we can ever imagine. Where joy and peace pervade everything and everyone.
I can’t imagine he could enter into life in the same way he was used to. There had to have been a constant yearning in his soul, not for something unknown and hidden, but for what was more real and truer than anything those around him could even remotely understand. His was a longing for what should have been.
It was with these thoughts swirling in my head and heart that I heard the carol “O, Holy Night” last week. And I was undone, both humbled and thrilled at the pictures of love and comradery it gives. Here are a few lines:
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger
The one to whom we should be bowing down, bowed his own heart, laid aside his own rights and privileges and took on flesh. We often think of the humility Jesus showed at the cross. But his humility didn’t begin at the cross, it culminated there. The cross was a final act of a humility which began on that holy Christmas night.
He knows what it is to have celebrations fall flat. I can’t imagine anything he experienced here held a candle to what he had known from before time began. He must have deeply felt the changes experienced by occupying time and space. We see him mourn at times and weep over his dreams and intentions that were ravaged by sin. He had to continually endure and wait for the day yet to come when everything wrong will be made right.
He didn’t just come to die, he came to enter into the human experience. He came to show us how to find refuge in the Father. He came show us how to live life here while longing for what is yet to come. He came to make the realization of that hope possible. And he came to befriend us along the journey.
To all who experience the ache of life, Jesus says, “I’ve been there. I understand your pain. I know the needs of your heart in the midst of these trials. I am no stranger to these weaknesses and limitations of life. I will hold your hand through it. I will be your friend.”
THIS is the glorious message of this carol and of the gospel itself. THIS is why he was born. THIS is his gift to you.
You are not alone! Jesus knows and understands firsthand. What you are experiencing is life ravaged by sin. You are longing for what God intended but is not yet here.
Christmas, indeed life, is meant to remind us we were made for something more. For some place more. For Someone more.
Christmas gives us opportunity to ponder the babe who willingly entered into the longing and the yearning too. Christmas enables us to set our eyes on the joy before us, the culmination of our faith in God and realization of life as he intended. Christmas causes us to identify with Jesus in new ways and walk side by side with him in the midst of our pain and longing and mourning.
As we take time to behold him, our hearts swell in love and adoration for our humble King. Our hearts and wills soften and bow to his. We can sing,
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend
Behold your King, your King, before Him lowly bend
The load doesn’t leave, but it does become a bit lighter. The joy is still mixed with sadness and pain but is truer and deeper and richer.
I pray you experience a taste of the richness this Christmas.
Set apart time this Christmas to behold your King. Ponder his humility. Identify how his experience is similar to yours (longings, disappointments, wounds, limitations, unrealized dreams, etc).
Worship him through song or prayer.