The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
- Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
As I sit down to write this, I must confess that this is about my tenth attempt. For all the limits with which we currently are living, I could not have added anything to my calendar. I never finished this blog, which originally had a date of December 7, but for what it’s worth, neither did I ever finish decorating my Christmas tree… or wrapping Christmas presents… or, really, much of anything. I felt as if I were racing non-stop to cross the finish line only after everyone else had gone home. A few weeks back, my son celebrated a milestone birthday, motivating me to flip through old pictures and all the memories entailed. As only a mama can believe, he was absolutely the cutest child ever born. I’ve now lived long enough to sound old when I talk. “I remember back when…” The poignant memories of his childhood were a sentimental journey for me. Then, I remembered how hard it actually was – going to college, working to support us, trying to do everything that needed to be done, while trying with little success to teach a boy to be man. Really, those years occasionally bordered on hellish, but time has a way of softening reality.
December is a month of nostalgia for most of us – a time to repeat family traditions, to pass on heirlooms of memories, to bring to life the stories of those long gone. We prepare common foods now uncommon in our menus, adorn our homes with sparkles of light and priceless baubles created by children’s hands long grown into adulthood. This year, the urge to recall better times was and is especially acute. Many of us celebrated quietly and separately, away from family and friends. Unable to refresh important relationships and enjoy the seasonal specialties left many of us feeling cheated and inclined us to look backward with some longing. The challenges in which we dwell these days weigh down the most optimistic, and a wistful yearning for the pristine moments of past recollections whisper disappointment and discontent into today.
Within each of us is an expectation of good, a belief that life merits happiness, a conviction that we ought to be loved. To be sure, in all of our lives, there are moments of great joy, but as evidenced in my journey through my son’s childhood, there are no unmarred, pristine moments in human life. We have memories of better times and worse times, and we have the promise of good times to come, as well as bad times ahead. Currently, as we look ahead, I must admit to being less than optimistic as the fabric of society appears to be unraveling. Where we are headed, what the future holds, how events will unfold, all of these are unpredictable, and none of the possibilities hold great hope for us as a nation. In these circumstances, perhaps this Christmas was the richest and most meaningful of all, if we let it be.
We live in the midst of upheaval – threatened by a virus we don’t understand, with an economy crippled by shutdowns and job losses, and subject to political machinations we cannot trust. If ever there were a perfect moment to recognize we need a Savior, this would be it. The very instability that worries us most is a hidden gift from our Father, the gift of understanding the limitations on what we can expect and trust.
One day, while cleaning house (another unfinished activity in the last month), I was listening to Christmas music, and a song by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra began to play. It’s not new; I’ve heard it many times. But as the strained and gritty voice sang, I was struck by the words, perhaps for the first time truly hearing them. “In a stable in a manger, in the cold winter’s air, in the arms of His mother, a Child’s lying there. In a city, in a village, though the years have gone by, the Child still remains with the dream still close by. And each year on this night that Child reawakens, and each year on this night, that hope rebegins, that the dream He has offered might one day be taken – for the sake of our brother, for the Child Who’s forgotten, for the dream that is still lying there.”
Within each of us is a longing for a vague and nebulous dream, the content forgotten but the yearning remains. It’s a dream in which our individual life matters, the dream of joy, the hope of perfect love, and the silent cry for the fullness of truth. Yet, none of us can remember what any of that is, nor do we know how to make the dream come true. This is the soul’s echo of eternal life, the endless, restless desire for the home we cannot remember.
A scholar whose podcast I enjoy observed that evil mimics the truth, which is what makes us so susceptible. We want riches, but we are created for the lavish life of Kingdom riches, not cash. We want security, so we have alarm systems, health insurance, and retirement plans, but we are created to rest safely in the heart of God. We want to be known, so we talk endlessly to counselors in hopes of discovering ourselves, but only the God Who formed us in the womb knows who we truly are. We want, above all, to be loved, so we forfeit our essential personhood in the shadowy masquerade of lust disguised as love, even as the Son laid down His life in love for each one of us. Everything this world promises is but a caricature of Kingdom life, fool’s gold instead of true gold, zirconium rather than diamonds.
The image of the dream lying close by the manger caught my imagination. Is it not so? We hurry busily around the Child of our salvation, the fulfillment of our greatest longings gone unnoticed, even as we ache for the dream to come true, the dream we cannot see and cannot escape. Nostalgia recalls the past as something better than it was, for even the best years include disappointments and failures. Hopes for the next year, for things to be made right, for good to triumph over evil, all reflect the underestimation of the dream of home within us.
Reawaken the dream… C. S. Lewis famously wrote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” The substance of every human dream is that world, the world we have forgotten, the world for which we no longer hope. Our Father calls us to let His unfailing promises shape our dreams, so our hope is vibrant and real rather than a vague and restless longing for what is forgotten.
My prayer is that you have not already put Christmas behind you. Instead, I pray that you allow the dream of eternity to take root deep in your soul, so that your hope begins again in the Kingdom of the Child.
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau