During this season of Advent, one particular idea has been weaving throughout my daily thoughts and prayers:
At its core, Advent teaches us what to do with our longings.
The coming of the Messiah was one of the most anticipated, longed-for events in history. Even now, we crave the story of a hero coming to save the world from destruction and evil. Yet in the moment of Christmas, all of that anticipation, that longing, found its conclusion in the tiny body of a frail baby named Jesus.
Tonight, I light the Advent candle and we bow our heads, and I think of all the longings I feel in this moment. How desire is such a universal language of mankind. Desire not just for physical items, even though this seems to have become one of the biggest symbols of Christmas. No, this confusing ache down in my soul is something present throughout the whole year, and simply highlighted in the holiday season. When I look closely, I find
- the hunger for belonging
- the longing to be valued and known
- the cravings for happiness and meaningful experiences
- the ache of wanting good to be clearly triumphing over every form of evil
This season, I’m meditating on one profound question:
What does it look like for these desires to be fulfilled in the person of Christ?
Jen Pollock Michael has written a beautiful little book on Christian desire, called Teach Us To Want. Here is what she says:
“We orient our lives not according to our belief systems or worldview, but according to our desires. Every decision, big and small, is value driven, and consciously or subconsciously, we are pursuing what we love and value… To effect real and lasting change, we will have to be oriented toward better desires, even toward grace.
But that plunge into holy desire doesn’t remove us from earthly life; it implicates us, gets us busy in the business of loving and worshiping God in our neighborhoods and churches and cities…In wanting good, we also commit to channeling good— to bless others as liberally and as sacrificially as we have been blessed. After all, in Christ, we are Abraham’s children to whom the good-news promise is given: In you shall all the nations be blessed.
And here is how desire becomes corrupt: wanting derails into selfishness, greed and demanding ingratitude when we’ve failed to recognize and receive the good that God has already given. Trust is at the center of holy desire: trust that God is good and wills good for his people. We trust in asking; we trust in receiving. Holy trust believes that whatever God chooses to give is enough.
Christ has come–this is Christmas. That little baby named Jesus grew up to be a man who would change the course of history. In his coming, God fulfilled his promise and answered the longing of every human heart. Here was one who would begin to put things right–forever. Who would triumph over evil and death.
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'” (John 6:35)
If there was ever a person to entrust our most deepest desires, and to allow to redirect and redeem even our selfish longings, it is Him. The ultimately satisfying Bread of Life. The Word Made Flesh. Emmanuel. The God who has come, and is coming again.
May our longings for more of Him replace our selfish and self-centered desires this season. May our hearts allow his gracious redirection of our many hungers. May we long for His coming and His kingdom during the rest of this Advent season, and in the year to come.
One thought on “Advent Longings”
Pingback: God’s Dimension Coming to Birth Within Ours: On Longing and the Lord’s Prayer | downwind of grace