A Waiting World, the Anticipation of Christmas, and What We Learn About the Love of God
The first snowfall of the year is an exciting time for those of us living in northern regions of the United States and throughout Canada. Sure, it’s cold. But it really is pretty.
White clouds cover the horizon from highway to hilltop and from them fall millions of frozen flakes. What was once dingy, brown colored ground is purified by a blanket of white snow.
For many of us, though, snow is most exciting in context—particularly, the context of the Christmas season. Winter is a wonderful time full of sledding, skiing, and snowman construction.
But what gets me most excited is the idea that Christmas, a time I wait for all year, is finally on its way.
C.S. Lewis, in one of his most well-known works, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, touches on this very theme. You see, as the story goes, the four Pevensie children somehow find their way through an old wardrobe and into a place called Narnia.
Sadly, this magical land full of fauns, minotaurs, and talking beavers is under the dominion of the White Witch. Among other more serious penalties, she vows to keep the countryside in an icy prison: “always winter, but never Christmas” as Lewis puts it.
Can you imagine that—a world where it’s always bitterly cold and blustery, yet without the one holiday celebration that makes it all worth it? The Narnians were waiting, always waiting, for something that never seemed to come.
Christmas Eve is a night of anticipation. We live in a dark world where, like Narnia, it almost feels like we live in a perpetual state of winter. In our hearts, we sense a certain longing but know that it’s not just for the presents or peppermint cookies this holiday season brings.
We Long for Freedom from Our Own Insufficiency
Most in our cultural context seem to be focused on the bigger and the better—‘good enough’ simply isn’t good enough. Everything from the house to the car to the backyard needs improvement. Looking at ourselves, we can’t help but long for more successful careers, fashion forward wardrobes, and thinner waistlines.
Nothing is ever enough, including what we see in ourselves.
It’s an exhausting way to live—always hustling, forever fighting to get to that next level where we hope to find a sense of fulfillment and joy.
I don’t know about you, but what I want most is for someone to help get me off that hamster wheel. I want someone to look me in the eyes and say: “You are enough, not because of what you’ve done, but because of who you are.”
We Long to Be Welcomed
We live in a world of exclusivity; only certain people are wanted in the special places. There is a certain estrangement we feel from our communities, co-workers, and, at times, even our churches. When we walk into Sunday morning services each week, the tension seems clear. There are certain social circles for the ‘spiritual’ people who’ve got everything together and other circles where the rest of us ‘messy’ folk must reside.
The word ‘welcome’ has simply lost its meaning.
Amidst the exclusivity, we all long for an invitation to just come and be. We don’t have to impress, we don’t have to put on a show, we can just be accepted for who we are and where we are—no pretenses.
We Long to Be Loved
It might sound cliché, but it’s true. It seems that for most of our lives, we’ve all tried to live with a large hole in our hearts—not physical, hopefully, but spiritual. There is something in each of us that wants to know that we’re cared for.
Augustine, in his work The Confessions, came to grips with the restlessness of the human heart. It is searching, always seeking to find a source of comfort and fulfillment on this earth. We look to our peers, love interests, kids, and pets, trying to find someone who will say the words “I love you” and really mean it.
The problem is, when these people fall short of our expectations, we all too easily find ourselves struggling to pick up the pieces from a life left undone by disappointment. Could there be, many of us wonder, a better way? Is there something—particularly, someone—we can root ourselves in?
A King Is Coming
As Paul tells us in Romans 8, “The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Just like the Pevensie children so quickly noticed upon their arrival in Narnia, the world is simply not as it should be.
In this time of waiting, patience is key. We wait, but do so with great expectation, trusting that God will fulfill all of his many promises to us. As believers, we never fear, we do not lose hope, nor do we give into discouragement, because we know how the story ends: Jesus—the long awaited Messiah—is on the move.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.