The weeks leading up to Christmas Day are filled with anticipation. In homes around the world, kids are counting down the days until Christmas morning.
We might argue that this anticipation is misplaced—as kids look forward to a new Lego set, American Girl doll, or whatever else fills their Christmas lists. Regardless of the motive, however, the anticipation of the Christmas season is unrivaled.
With age comes another emotion, one that is perhaps more palpable than the anticipation of children. This feeling is best captured in the sentiment “I wish things were different.”
I wish my family wasn’t fractured by divorce.
I wish we weren’t awaiting test results.
I wish my daughter would call and wish us Merry Christmas.
I wish we were all together.
I wish they weren’t gone.
I wish we could afford what my kids want.
I wish we had kids.
The list could go on and on. The dull ache of sorrow plagues us all, in one way or another, every Christmas.
Yet, we often believe that we are the only one who struggles. We conjure up images of picturesque families celebrating their perfect lives. The problem is that such families simply don’t exist. There are no perfect people celebrating their perfect lives this Christmas.
Everyone wishes things were different.
And, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that this is actually the point of Christmas.
The incarnation isn’t a celebration for happy people; it’s hope for those who wish things were different. Our longing joins in the chorus of creation that groans for deliverance from this world that is marred and broken by sin (Rom 8:22 – 23). We wish things were different because we know they are supposed to be.
Families aren’t supposed to be fractured by divorce.
Bodies aren’t supposed to decay.
Kids aren’t supposed to rebel.
Money isn’t supposed to define happiness.
People aren’t supposed to hurt each other.
Things are supposed to be different. Sin has changed all that. Now we live in a world in which all people, everywhere, limp through life wishing things were different.
This longing reminds us of the necessity of Christmas.
Without Jesus, our current reality would be a mere foreshadowing of the horror of our eternal reality. But, Christmas reminds us that we can have hope, even in the most dire circumstances.
God invaded our sin-drenched world because He knew we were broken. He lived and died because things weren’t the way they were supposed to be. And, because of Jesus’ work, we can have hope that there is a new world coming—one that will be different. One without pain, suffering, death, or sin. One that is the manifestation of the life we wish we had now.
For this reason, sorrow is actually a great gift this Christmas. It continually points our hearts to the tragedy of sin. It orients our affections away from fleeting hope in a temporary world. It reminds us of the futility of life in a fallen world. It points us to Jesus.
This longing also gives us a perfect opportunity to point others to Jesus. The universality of the desire for things to be different means that we can assume that everyone we meet this Christmas, including our family and friends, confronts a life they wish were different.
They know something is broken. It’s undeniable. Therefore, everyone is looking for something or someone to blame and to place their hope. We, who know the cause (sin) and the solution (Jesus), can leverage sorrow to speak of the hope that is ours because of the incarnation of Jesus (1 Pet 3:15).
We can invite others into a joy that is bigger, richer, and more lasting than anything this world can offer.
It’s ok to feel sorrow this Christmas—we all do. We wish things were different and, praise God, because of Jesus one day they will be.