Scan our social media ads, pop-ups, or any magazine headings and we’re bombarded with lustrous images and slogans, alluring us to possible answers for our questions, solutions for our problems, and pathways out of the rat race we can’t seem to evade.
What’s the current political temperature?
Where’s the next best fantasy vacation spot?
How can we find peace, lose weight, avoid cancer, invest wisely or get lost in the gossip stories of the rich and the famous?
The allure is tenacious, begging the deeper question, “What do women long for?”
While in line at a grocery store, a magazine headline caught my eye, “What Women Long For this Christmas.” The subtitle implied the article would be a resource for gift options or tips on how to relieve women of the hustle and bustle of their inevitable Christmas flurry. I rolled my eyes at yet another sentimental and incomplete interpretation of the wants of women.
Beyond our shopping lists and our frenzied schedule of the holiday season, what women long for this Christmas is as provocative as it is revolutionary. Our ambitions, dreams, and desires are met in the message of the Christ child, who brings peace and liberation to all.
When we talk about Christmas longings, we connect with the spiritual practice of Advent, the season of expectant waiting on Christ. We look back and remember the prophecies, Mary’s journey of divine conception and pregnancy, the subversive birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, and the radical implications of the Messiah’s arrival in a time of bitter political and social unrest.
As we remember, we acknowledge our present need for Christ’s presence in our lives and in our world and the disruptive implications of God’s on-going salvation today. As Richard Rohr says, “Advent is an always and final declaration, ‘Come, Lord Jesus,’ (Revelation 22:20) which makes our entire lives one big longing after Christ in his fullness.”
So what are some of these longings for women?
A group gathered in my living room to sing Christmas hymns and reflect on their meaning, allowing the words to guide our prayers. As we read aloud the lyrics to “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” my 6-year-old daughter blurted out, “wait, goodwill just to men??”
I quietly tried to explain to her that the word “men” in this context meant “mankind” which is referring to, “humans.” It was still confusing so she persisted by pointing to each woman in the room, saying our names, “what about Heather or Jenny or me or you, Mama?” She asked.
I got to tell my daughter that though language is limiting and flawed, God always, always, always includes everyone – the young and old, rich and poor, boys and girls.
Women long for peace on earth and goodwill for all people.
This longing is a surrender to our need for the divine indwelling of Christ in our lives. Come, Lord Jesus, be born again in me! Just as Mary pondered the extravagant love of God who came so near as to enter the world through her womb, so we ponder the nearness of Christ.
As women, we accept our maternal call to birth and nurture God’s love in the world. Teresa of Avila beautifully described the incarnational life by saying, “Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world.”
Women long to embody our Christ calling in the world.
“He will save his people from their sins,” (Matthew 1:21) said the angel to Joseph in a dream. This is the foundational description of the mission of God through Jesus. Sin is anything that impairs, defrauds, or destroys life. And true life is best summed up as, God’s dream for all creation. Jesus referred to it as, “the Kingdom of God,” or “The Kingdom of Heaven.”
We contend for the dignity of all people. Where there is inequality, oppression, degradation, sexism, racism, bigotry… God’s dream is ravaged. The message and mission of Jesus is life and life abundant; for every human soul to be free and flourishing. This is the call and passion of anyone who follows Jesus.
As the old hymn says, “Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free. From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth, thou art. Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.”
Women long to follow Jesus for the freedom and flourishing of all.
This Christmas may we renew our pledge to follow Christ into all our longings. To pursue peace on earth, to trust God’s goodness for all, to receive the Spirit daily, and to choose to live the dream of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Come, Lord Jesus.