When I was a child, it was so much easier to answer if a grown-up asked, “What do you want for Christmas?” I’m old enough to remember when there was no event like getting the Sears Wish Book in the mail and spending hours poring through the pages, my sister and I circling our desires in the thin, glossy pages, staged photo shoots of broadly smiling children and the coveted toys of the moment.
Growing up complicates things. If you believe the ad industry, a grown-up Christmas list is more likely to show off diamond rings, the latest smartphone, a Lexus with a giant red bow. But what if the things we want are mostly signposts aimed at our desires?
Do we want the ring, or the rock-solid assurance that someone loves us?
Do we want the phone, or something to signal how productive, competent, and needed we are?
Do we want the car, or the status symbol, the independence to go anywhere?
Do we want the things, or do we want to fill up some lack, to find something wrong in our lives and make it right?
It feels a little cliche to say that the things we want most can’t be wrapped up and left under the tree, and yet the older I get, the more true it feels. Imagine me, asking you, “Seriously…what do you want for Christmas?”
For a loved one with depression to feel joy again? For the cancer diagnosis to be reversed? A guarantee that you’ll make the rent this month, or scrape together enough money and time off to go home, or just to look at the news one day without feeling hopeless, to end one old year with the satisfaction that it was, indeed, for the whole world, a good year?
No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
Take heart, because the memory of Paradise sustains us, and the hope for renewal leads the way from winter's bitter sting to spring's gentle rain. The reversal has begun, and with heaven and nature we can sing.Jen Yokel
Here we are, at the end of Advent. We have spent the last four weeks gathering our hope, lighting a new candle each Sunday, singing in the face of the longest nights of the year. We celebrate this season of remembering every year, because even though the Christ child came—yes, he came, in a fragile body like ours to show us what God is like, and that is no small miracle—even for all the things Jesus has made right, we are still well aware that we’re living in the wait.
Every year, I find myself resonating more and more with the sometimes forgotten third verse of “Joy to the World.” I suppose thoughts of sorrow, thorns, and curses don’t exactly drum up holiday cheer, but something in me resonates when I hear those words. They capture the soul of Advent, the waiting, the intense anticipation for reversal. They hint at a story too good to be true.
Jesus has come to make many things right. I believe he did. I believe he still is and that we’re invited to be part of it.
But in another Advent season, the wait can be so hard sometimes.
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found. Maybe farther. Hope, renewal, joy, flooding across the nearly-dead earth to drown the weeds. Sometimes, I can almost feel it.
The first great curse is that we toil, surviving by sweat and tears and waging battle against thorns and drought and disease. Of course the beauty is there, but our joys and sustenance are tempered by futility, the sense that we can never do enough, or be enough, or win.
But take heart, because the memory of Paradise sustains us, and the hope for renewal leads the way from winter’s bitter sting to spring’s gentle rain. The reversal has begun, and with heaven and nature we can sing.
Joy to the weary, broken, beautiful world.
Jen Rose Yokel is a poet, freelance writer, and spiritual director. Her words have appeared at She Reads Truth, CCM Magazine, and other publications, and she released her first poetry collection Ruins & Kingdoms in 2015. Originally from Central Florida, she now makes her home in Fall River, Massachusetts with her husband Chris, where you can find her enjoying used bookstores and good coffee.