As we move through Advent and prepare to celebrate the arrival of our Savior, I wonder what is pulling at your heart. Is there a longing? Is there something you are wishing for? Is the biggest thing on your Christmas list impossible to wrap up in a package, but oh, if it could be delivered to you, the satisfaction would be so very sweet?
Last month, I wrote about what we can do when it's hard to hope. Perhaps at no time of year is it harder to hope than at Christmastime. The lights, decorations, and smells create something beautiful. That beauty expands our hearts, and makes us long for fulfillment. It can make us long for traditions we had in childhood. It can make us long for a return of the pure wonder we used to have. The deepest ache comes when we long for the presence of loved ones who were here in years past but are no longer with us.
These aches were placed in our hearts by our Creator to make us long for heaven. Our time on earth is not all there is. Our destiny is an eternal one, and it is only there that we will have all our longings satisfied. Our hearts are continuously being pulled towards that place where we'll experience true fulfillment. During our lifetimes, we'll get tastes and glimmers of what that heavenly bliss is going to be like, but they are only meant to point us homeward, never to totally fill and satisfy us.
When we look to people, or circumstances, or even answers to prayer to satisfy our longings, we will always be disappointed. We were made for more, and that more is not here. Yes, Jesus satisfies. Yes, His Holy Spirit fills us and makes all the difference in our lives. But there will always be a gap between what we experience on earth, and the total union with God that we were created for.
What we think of heaven will have an enormous impact on how we feel about all of this. If we think of heaven as a place where we do nothing but play harps and sing all day, we're going to try to squeeze as much satisfaction out of this life as we can. We'll have the attitude, “Let's eat and drink and be merry because tomorrow we die (and everything gets really boring after that point).”
Oh my friends. Nothing could be further from the truth. Heaven is NOT going to be boring. It's going to be the place where our emptiness is filled. Where our joy shoots through the roof to the point of ecstasy. Where all our longings will be satisfied. Everything wrong will be made right. Every tear will be wiped from our eyes. When Jesus left this earth, He went to get it all ready for us. Think about the ultimate Christmas experience. The most beautifully decorated home. Sublime smells. Foods with the perfect blend of flavor and comfort. Unwrapping the gift that you've been hoping for but were sure was out of reach. Being surrounded by those you love. All of that is just a taste of what Jesus has prepared for us.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”
(1 Corinthians 2:9)
The story is told of a woman who lost her only child. Holding him in her arms, she turned her face towards heaven and said, “I give you joy, my sweet child.” This is what awaits us. Pure joy. This is what is being experienced right now by our loved ones who have gone before us. This why we don't “grieve like the rest, who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
E'en for the dead I will not bind my soul to grief; Death cannot long divide. For is it not as though the rose that climbed my garden wall Has blossomed on the other side? Death does hide, But not divide; You are but on Christ's other side! You are with Christ, and Christ with me; In Christ united still are we.
This Advent season, let's turn our hearts to heaven. While we enjoy the glimmers of joy here, let's remember that our inner ache, our longings, our desires, are going to be satisfied there.
So now we wait. We still our hearts. We prepare for the coming of Jesus, the one who came into the mess of the manger, who made Himself into bread so our hunger could be satisfied, who even now is preparing a banquet for us in heaven, beyond our wildest imaginings.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come.
May the blessing of hope be yours this Advent season!
 L.B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert (Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderan, 1997), 450.