Every year I find myself counting down the days until Christmas (I normally start somewhere around July.) For many years it was simply because I loved the magic that Christmas time brings; the twinkle of the lights that couldn’t come soon enough, the smell of Christmas trees, the carols that brought joy to my heart, and of course, the fact that soon enough Santa Clause would come down the chimney. While I no longer impatiently wait for what I thought had to be hoofbeats on the roof, as an adult, I still find myself counting down until Christmas morning. It is something deep within my spirit, that for the past few years I attributed to knowing that as hard and busy as life was, Christmas morning was coming and I would be reminded that God sent His Son to this broken world because He wanted to save me. It was a continual reminder that God brought His perfect flesh and Spirit into this world knowing the end of the story; knowing that He would have to watch the same child born in a manger made of wood, hung on a cross and mercilessly killed. He chose an imperfect, young, and seemingly unqualified girl to bring the greatest gift the world could ever receive, because He had a perfect plan that led to redemption. And as the world desperately cried out for Emmanuel, He came. That alone is why we rejoice. When Emmanuel arrives — when the Dayspring rises — we learn that redemption has only begun. To be sure, it is a magnificent only. The final blood is shed. The debt is paid. Forgiveness is purchased. God’s wrath is removed. Adoption is secured. The future is sure. The joy is great. But the end is not yet.

I still think that that is part of the reason why I count down the days until Christmas morning; however, I realized that my spirit is counting down the days for something even greater. My soul is still crying out the same words that the captives in Israel cried out thousands of years ago, “o come, o come Emmanuel,” because as perfect as Jesus is, this world is not. Death still snatches away. Disease still makes us miserable. Calamity still strikes. Satan still prowls. Flesh still wars against the Spirit. Sin still indwells. And we still groan inwardly as we wait eagerly the redemption of our bodies and this world. John Piper articulates exactly the conflict that I am experiencing: “The Christian life oscillates between these two poles: the overflowing joy of the ‘already’ redeemed (Ephesians 1:7) and the tearful yearning of the “not-yet” redeemed (Ephesians 4:30). Not that we ever leave the one or the other in this life. We are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).”  The words of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” have the same significance of the cry, “Maranatha”, meaning “Oh come. Lord.” We long for the day that God will come back and rescue His people for the final time.

As Christmas approaches, my heart and flesh continue to cry out to the Living God. The King, who was born in a city with no room for him, is still on His heavenly throne. And while I will embrace this Christmas season with every bit of my heart and soul, a part of me is still waiting.