This time of year can have an inebriating effect on me.
I don’t at all mean inebriating in the good sense of the word. Not the exhilarating, coming back alive sense that so many seem to experience as Christmas approaches.
For me, it’s like my senses start to dull and the season turns into more of a slumber than a celebration.
It’s not because I dislike Christmas. (Heck, I see Christmas decorations going up and can’t help crooning to anyone within ear shot, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”)
But one moment I’m a man walking in the woods, enjoying the pleasantness of the day, and the next I find myself in a fog, unsure where the trail is or how far I’ve wandered from it.
Too many times in the past when this happens, I’ve simply plodded along, ridden the season through till I emerge again sometime after the New Year.
Cookies and carols and gifts and Dickens and lights and Santa and mangers and stockings and reading the Christmas story, these aren’t the fog. But they can leave me so full I have no room left to feel that I’m longing for something more.
Sometimes I get the impression from others that if I could just “get into the Christmas spirit” or keep in mind the “true meaning of Christmas,” the longing would go away.
But I don’t think this is true.
Christmas as we know it isn’t supposed to remove the ache of longing. I think it’s supposed to arouse it.
Christmas points to something, but it’s not the thing itself. The signpost points to the destination, but it’s not the place itself. The telling of the story is not the actual story.
And the ache alerts me to the difference.
The ache exposes the truth that I need more than a reminder. I need the miracle.
Jesus. God saves. God with us. God made flesh.
Even these words, they’re not the same as Word become body—voice of God pulsating in trembling, naked newborn.
This Christmas season, as I feel the ache of longing, I don’t want to try to shove Christmas at it in an effort to get myself to feel the “joy of the season.”
Instead, when the ache arises, I want to face it square. And follow it like a star piercing through the fog.