Longing for What We Can’t Have

Weirdly I posted last week’s blog as a page… not sure what I was doing or how I did it. I deleted it as it was a time-sensitive one on Thanksgiving. 

Yesterday (November 29) was my 48th birthday. Over the years I have received many wonderful birthday gifts including several marvelous surprise parties thrown by my wife and friends (alas for my wife, throwing parties is not in my make-up so she has not been so blessed). And this year I was blessed by a number of cards, a few gifts, and a fair number of Facebook well-wishes.

However the one thing I would love to have received- the one thing I did not and could not receive – was a birthday call from my dad. For many years, wherever I was, my father would call me to wish me a happy birthday. I didn’t realize until my dad’s death in 2011 and the phone call that would never come again how much that simple act meant to me.

So much of what we want we cannot or perhaps should not have. Friday was “Black Friday.” Someone wryly observed it is a day to buy things we don’t need (or really want) after celebrating a day of being grateful for what we have. But in it I always see a longing for more, for satisfaction. Not well-pursued or satisfying however.

We are creatures of longing, of aspiration. We want higher, better, bigger things. We see it an humanity’s art – visual arts, drama, poetry, literature. Our visions in politics, even the disparate ones so prevalent today. are for a world that is better than the one we have. We want justice and peace and abundance and joy.

Advent and the often contrasting frantic preparations for Christmas are about this longing. a longing that cannot be satisfied by any Christmas observance or holiday tradition. No purchases made or gifts received will bring us closer to the aspirations that lie beneath so much of what we do at all times but especially now.

Unlike the phone call from Dad which will not happen in this life again, this longing does have a satisfaction in God’s gift in Jesus. All the wants that we cannot or should not have pale in the light of the Light of the World.

Today I am re-experiencing a bit of grief because of the call I will not ever receive. I am longing, though, for the promise of Christmas, which can and will be satisfied anew if I will let it…

“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

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