“You’ll shoot your eye out kid! Merry Christmas!” These were the words from a department store Santa to Ralphie, in “A Christmas Story”, when he asked for the elusive “Red Rider BB Gun” (with a compass in the stock). I think many people find themselves wishing and longing for something in the Christmas season.
The longings and wishes may be things we want to receive, but I think they are often deeper and unspoken. The real Christmas wishes don’t make any paper or electronic list. The deeper wishes take up space in our hearts and sometimes gather in the pit of our stomach.
Perhaps some of these deeper wishes sound like… “I wish I wasn’t alone. I wish I could go back to when my life was good. I wish I could experience peace in the midst of the craziness. I wish I wasn’t afraid. I wish I could have a do-over. I wish…..”
The first Christmas was an answer to these and other longings. The birth of Jesus, the Messiah, was wished for before there was a Mary, Joseph, and a baby lying in a manger. There is a book in the Bible called, “Isaiah”. Isaiah was a prophet (heard from God and revealed to others what God was saying) who wrote promises from God about what was going to happen.
When this was first declared by Isaiah, the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, were divided into two kingdoms. The northern Kingdom still went by the name Israel and the southern Kingdom was called Judah. It was a complex world with many threats. In this complex and dangerous world, the northern Kingdom of Israel, and another nation, combined forces to take over Judah to make them join their coalition. They surrounded the city of Jerusalem, in Judah. They planned on taking it over and setting up a ruler who was friendly to them and would go with their plans.
In this environment, God showed up and encouraged the kingdom of Judah, through the words of Isaiah. God was offering a sign that the King could choose faith over fear.
God seemed to be saying, “In this time of being overwhelmed and ganged up on… In this moment of hopelessness and feeling alone in the world… I will give you a sign – a glimmer of hope – a promise for better days.”
How would the people know that their deepest longings would be satisfied? In Isaiah 7:14 it proclaims that the virgin will be with child and His name will be “Immanuel”, which means,“God with us.” God promised that a child would be born and within a short period of time, God’s own presence would help Judah remove the threats around them. But overtime, this sign expanded beyond hope for the moment. This sign was also seen as promise for the future…that God would bring about a virgin birth and that this child born would be the King – the very real presence of God to rescue.
So, people began to wish that things would be different and they longed for the one to come who would be called, “Immanuel”. They wished for the day that God would be with them and live among them. Around 700 years after this promise, Jesus was born and is called “Immanuel” (Matthew 1:20-23).
Perhaps the deepest wishes and longings we have, are answered in the one who is called, “God with us.” When we bring our Christmas wishes to God… He doesn’t merely give something… He gives Himself.
What longing and desire do you carry in the pit of your stomach? What wish do you want more than anything? Consider that these have their answer in the one whose birth is told in the Christmas story.