We are all I am without a doubt, familiar with longing.
It is a feeling that we become acquainted with from a fledgling age. The urgent longing we feel for a parent to buy us an ice-cream from the shop, the excitable longing the night before Christmas when there are presents waiting to be unwrapped at dawn, for the mystery to be uncovered. The longing we feel at that age is mixed with a child-like awe and perhaps brief moments of frustration, “why can’t I have it now?” I assuredly asked countless times throughout my own childhood.
Longing develops as we grow and usually becomes more relational. We begin to long for - perhaps even ache for - relationships that fill our lives with joy. We quickly learn that longing has a bitter-sweet nature, we are trapped between the now and the not-yet. We may have a desire, even a hunger perhaps so strong that we can feel the tangible reality of it, and yet it has not arrived. It is not quite within our grasp.
Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”. I am sure we also know what it is like to receive the thing that we have most been yearning for. Sometimes the object of desire does not meet our expectations and comes with it a feeling of disappointment, but on some rare, very special occasions it is exactly what we longed for and oh how that makes our hearts sing!
Imagine with me, if you will, being a Jew in the first century who has a deep hunger to see your people free, waiting patiently for the Messiah to arrive. Visualise what it would have been like to sit in that tension, knowing what the scriptures say about Him, but not truly understanding who He will be, or what exactly he will do. You know that He will be a descendant of David and you have memorised the prophesies that are spoken about Him, but when will He arrive? The time has not been given. There are days, weeks, months, and years of frustration, when all you feel like doing is calling out as David did in the Psalms “O God, You are my God; I earnestly search for You. My soul thirsts for You; my whole body longs for You in this parched and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1-2). Then along comes Jesus - envisage being one of those who saw Him for who he truly was! The longing fulfilled – the Christ has arrived!
God often reveals himself in the most unlikely places and ways. A child born in a manger, God-incarnate, come to bring salvation, healing, peace, and joy to us, with the promise to never leave us. Yet here we are on Christmas Eve still in the tension of the now and not yet, but this time it comes with assurance, and a hope. Sometimes, if we care to look close enough, we are able to see the light of dawn shining through the broken darkness of the world and perceive that we are no longer alone in the tension and in our longing. Christ has already declared that the Kingdom of God is near.
John 16:22 says “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you”. Wherever you may be on this Christmas Eve as the world awaits for the dawn, perhaps with family or perhaps alone, maybe with joy in your heart or maybe your heart is yearning for a taste of gladness – sit in the longing and the waiting, but let that space between the now and the not yet be filled with the hope that Christ brings. The dawn will come.
Ella is an assistant Pastor and radio presenter. She is passionate about good coffee, early mornings, farmers markets, and creative expression.