Long lay the world, in sin and error pining…
Thus begins the second half of the first verse of my favorite Christmas Carol ever, “O Holy Night.” What is it about Christmas that leads to pining or longing? You’ve felt it, haven’t you – that sense of waiting and yearning that seems to envelop us and fill the very air with electricity?
It’s what makes the world weary yet hopeful.
Those many years ago, the world waited for fulfillment of a two-thousand-year-old promise, a promise repeated throughout Old Testament prophecy over 300 times. The longing was thick in the air.
And while I know some of today’s nearly tangible anticipation stems from that longing for the day of Christ’s birth, I have to wonder, why is the world still weary?
Why do we still experience that sense of longing every Christmas?
Then last week I read in Romans chapter 8 these words:
19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (emphasis mine – NASB)
Over two thousand years ago the world waited as Mary labored to bring forth the Son who would forever change history. No longer would mankind be doomed to eternal separation from God, but through this tiny babe, we would be granted eternal life.
While Christ’s birth and eventual death on the cross began the process of freeing mankind from sin’s chains and molding us into new creatures, that process of sanctification is not yet complete!
As Paul wrote in this Romans passage, the world is still weary and “subjected to futility.” All of creation “groans and suffers” under the curse of sin, longing for redemption.
We recognize the devastating effects of sin all around us:
- personal failures
- broken relationships
- ruined families
- financial struggles
- poor health
- children starving
- women sold into slavery
- whole tribes dying without hope
- wars that never seem to end
The list could be a mile long.
Even though we rejoice in celebration of the Savior’s birth, there is some part of us that realizes we are not home yet. Our world remains broken. We remain broken, not yet perfect.
According to Paul, even the very creation itself, nature, longs anxiously for that day when Christ shall return to Earth again!
Only then will our longing find peace.
Only then will creation and our very bodies be fully redeemed. Only then will we experience the paradise God intended for us from the very beginning.
This is why we find ourselves longing during Christmas, friends.
We long for His return, and the celebration of His birth affords us a small glimpse of what peace on Earth could look like. Christmas reminds us of the perpetual joy those who are in Christ shall some day experience.
We long with hope because we know He is coming again!
And the taste of freedom we experience through Christ now will be nothing compared to the final glory of being set free once and for all. The joy we feel at Christmas is minuscule compared to the exuberance of seeing God face to face.
Can you imagine it, friends?
No more pain or suffering.
No more striving and yearning.
No more futility.
Only Love made complete!
Go ahead and long this Christmas season. It just means we know that something even better awaits.
We can celebrate the joy of Christmas with that slight tinge of sadness that tells us we are not home yet.
We have that hope of joy made complete because God kept His promise by sending Jesus to live among us and die for us. We can trust that He will keep His promise; Christ shall return!
20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20-21, NASB)
Wait eagerly for it!
Sharing with: Grace and Truth