Sweet William and I savored the bliss of being with our precious ones several times this year. It began with a serendipitous visit, early in the year, from the one and only son when he was on a job near the Wright House. He came and spent the night. The visit was short but oh so very sweet.
The whole family came in the spring, and we attended Easter services together. My pew was full and so was my heart.
We drove the miles and through states twice in 2016. One for a graduation celebration and one for a sweet sixteen birthday.
And then here they all came for three-day visit at Thanksgiving. It was more than I even dreamed. We have been blessed by companionship in 2016.
So of course, I knew all of us were done traveling for the year. I have accepted the fact
And yet, there is a longing in my heart as Christmas approaches. Early mornings as I sit and sip my coffee, I remember other years, other Christmases.
I remember when the one and only son was so young and the excitement of the season was almost too much for him. One year he wanted me to put his opened presents back under the tree the morning after and pretend it was Christmas day all over again.
I recall when my mother was alive and how she made the holidays special. She loved to give gifts. After we tore into wrapping paper and boxes at our house, we walked the short distance to my parents’ home where we had more presents to open and a delicious waffle breakfast sitting around their table.
When our son and his family lived in the house next door, we gathered on Christmas Eve to eat a celebratory meal and open gifts. Stockings for each one were stuffed with surprises. My dad and step-mother gathered with us. The big trestle table with two leaves added, bought with the purpose of making room for all, overflowed with laughter, stories, and love.
At times like this I am deeply thankful for extended family close by, those who open their homes and their hearts to Sweet William and me. We gladly share in their celebrations with gratefulness.
Though I prepare myself for the absence of others I hold so dear again this year, I find tears moistening my eyes as I think of each one. I have a longing to be with them, to give and receive gifts, to see the expressions of surprise and happiness on their faces, to feel their hugs and be warmed by their love.
I know I’m not alone. There is longing in hearts this Christmas. Some grieve. Death has taken its toll, and Sweet William and I have visited too many funeral homes this month. Distance keeps people apart. Sometimes it is the miles that separate and sometimes it is unresolved differences.
For whatever reason, we are left holding only our memories when we want to hold those we love close to us, feel their warmth and hear their laughter.
It’s a Christmas longing. A longing that can leave us feeling empty and bare.
Centuries before, a couple traveled away from home, a great distance for those who journey by foot. The birth of a first-born son would not be celebrated with their families gathered near. What longings did they have? A warm welcome, a comfortable bed, familiar faces, loved ones who would rejoice with them instead of questioning and doubting the angelic message they were given?
This was not how they expected these days to unfold.
Yet, they were in the place God had planned, part of His great design. They were part and parcel of the miracle of Emmanuel. The strong God coming to mankind in a way no one could have envisioned.
The characters of the Christmas story received unexpected favor.
Zachariah and Elizabeth got a son in their old age. Mary’s womb was filled with a miracle. Joseph became a father to God’s own Son. The shepherds were filled with wonder. The wise men were rewarded for their searching hearts upon discovering the King of all kings.
Simeon’s wait for the consolation of Israel was complete as he found God faithful to His promise. Anna’s years of fasting and praying prepared her worshiping heart for this day of discovering the Christ Child.
A heart empty can be filled. Though Christmas longings can leave us feeling lonely and wanting, there is a miracle of love to satisfy all the barren places. When we give our longings to God, surrender the tears and the wounded heart, open ourselves up in honest hunger for something more, we become vessels to be filled.
Jesus is the gift we need. He is the Gift that gives to overflowing time after time. He fills the hungry with good things. He satisfies fully and makes us glad with the joy of His presence.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay.
Let every heart prepare Him room.