“Joy of every longing heart…you find us where we are…waiting for you. Love to make the broken whole…you rescue every soul waiting for you.” Those are phrases from Faith’s 2013 Christmas musical. The celebratory title song is found here.
The Christmas message of joy and love in Christ is only intensely experienced as such by those who recognize that they are in a joyless, loveless condition—those “waiting” and “longing.”
The good news of Jesus’ birth in Luke’s account went first to the shepherds (Luke 2:8ff). Why did the message go first to the shepherds and not the movers and shakers of Israel’s elite ruling class? A clear answer comes when we gain an accurate view of the shepherds. Often we have a highly romanticized perspective of shepherds because of our industrialized culture. We think of shepherds as nice, gentle old men with long snow-white beards, holding cute little baby lambs in their hands. The reality is that the good tidings of great joy came first to the dishonest, unclean outcasts with grungy beards—those needing the message most (Stein, Luke New American Commentary, 108).
In Luke 2:25, the great exuberance of Simeon came as he saw Jesus because he was looking for the consolation of Israel. He had been in mourning—looking for comfort—and then Simeon found Him. The exalted thanksgiving of Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:38) came upon beholding Jesus after she had been waiting for redemption, serving night and day with fasting and prayers.
The shepherds were satisfied. Simeon was satisfied. Anna was satisfied. Joy to every longing heart. What are you longing for? What are you desiring? What do you believe would make you happy?
Friends? Companionship? A Spouse? A Spouse Who Loves Me?
“If I just had a companion then I would be happy!” Pressing a little deeper beyond the surface of these desires reveals a greater longing—the desire to belong or the desire for intimacy in a world of alienation. Deep intimacy and belonging originally were present with God in the Garden of Eden but now seem to escape us.
More! More Pleasure? More Sex? More Thrills? More Food? More Entertainment?
“If I just had more, then I would be happy!” We are forever lusting after the next thrill in using others or things to please ourselves. From insatiable and escalating sexual thrills to extreme and dangerous sports, we must experience everything. Is this longing speaking to a deeper sense of incompleteness that we innately feel? “Shalom” is the Hebrew word that captures the wholeness that God desires for all of us and was present in the beginning but now seems to elude us.
“I just want a little peace. That would make me happy.” Everything seems to be spinning out of control—out of control kids, out of control marriage, out of control finances, out of control government. The longing for peace and stability reflects our innate understanding that this world is broken, hurtful, out of control. We long for blessedness in relationships and in a world system that actually works for the edification of people based upon righteousness and justice. That blessedness did exist originally in the Garden of Eden in the presence of God, but now it also seems to be out of everybody’s reach.
Respect? Power to Influence?
“If more people just respected me, then I would be happy. That is why I climb the corporate ladder. That is why I accumulate possessions. That is why I exalt myself in front of all.” At the core of this longing is a skewed identity of who we are. We are longing to be somebody in the eyes of all and that becomes our purpose in life. We deeply long for significant purpose. Again originally, God gave us a divine purpose that was satisfying and fulfilling in the Garden of Eden in His presence.
“If I just had health.” Every one of us is hurtling inescapably toward death. We sense this and our true desire is for abundant life. Abundant eternal life existed in the presence of God in the beginning. Now death reigns.
Satisfying Our True Longings
Behind all the surface desires of humanity is a longing for intimacy with God and others, wholeness, blessedness, purpose, and abundant life. The fulfillment of these deep seated longings is only found in the presence of our Creator. But being in the presence of our Creator is impossible because of our sin that separates mankind from God. Thus we are forever destined to continue longing and masking our true longings by the temporal pleasures of the world (drugs, alcohol, sex, food, power, possessions, use of people for their praise of me). Do not let the desires for these temporal, earthly things mask the deeper realities. You need intimacy with God. You need wholeness. You need blessedness. You need purpose. You need abundant life. When you realize that these are the greater yearnings of your heart, and when you see and accept Jesus as the way back to the presence of God there will be joy inexpressible to your longing heart.