I pulled into the parking lot at the gym at which I work out – you know, typical-day-stuff-that-eventually-presents-something-different-type thing. I was taken back by how full the parking lot was. The reason became apparently clear – there was a long line curving around the general store. The line was full of parents and little children.
At the beginning of it, I could see a sleigh, occupied by Santa Claus. He had a couple of children on his lap at that moment. As I walked into the fitness place, an older woman followed me, commenting that you have to get to these things early if you don’t want to have to deal with the wait and all. “But,” she added, “there’s something magical about it when you’re that age.” I couldn’t resist telling her that there’s something magical no matter what the age. But I was thinking of something deeper – even as I was running, I couldn’t shake it, couldn’t escape the truth seeking me out.
What magic draws a child to a man who is dressed up as Santa Claus? What draws a parent to make the time in their day for this actor, this stranger, to have a conversation with their own? What would cause both to wait for minutes outside in the cold December wind to get a few brief moments with this man? It is because the child sees him as someone who can meet a great desire. It is because the parents know that though this man may not be real, the hope their children find in him is. I’m sure every Santa actor is different, but my experience proves that most steer their conversations with these children toward one question: “What do you want for Christmas?” It’s incredible how open each child will be with this complete stranger, to tell them their Christmas wishes because ultimately, they believe he can meet them.
I couldn’t help but think that Jesus desires me to come to him in much the same way. He draws me to Himself – there is something about Him that magically woos. He would gladly set me on His lap, for I am but His little child. But there the comparison ends. I am, after all, in the presence of ancient holiness and power, a fury of goodness and love and light. He does not wonder what I want for Christmas. He knows my desires well, both the pure and profane. He knows the names of my sorrows and fears just as intimately. No amount of clothing or masking could cover the nakedness of my heart’s intents before His eyes. He asks a different question: “Do you believe that I can give you what you want for Christmas?” The adult in me would certainly be cynical about such a question, but the little child of faith in me looks into those tender eyes and knows no one could be more trustworthy. How can I help but say yes? He then asks a more potent question: “Do you believe that I Am what you want for Christmas?” A flood of images fill my head and heart in a flurry. All I have is a broken heart of sin, a dark and lonely abyss separating me from God, a ceaseless clamoring of thirsts and hungers this world cannot satisfy. A voice cuts through it all – “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away our sin!” There I see Him – a baby without sin who became sin and loneliness and ugliness for me, so I could made a beautiful child of God in Him. He gave me all of Himself for Christmas so I could know definitively here on His lap that I am loved…always.
All of this brought me back to this past Friday’s Behold the Lamb of God concert put on by Andrew Peterson and friends. As the various artists sang in the round, Thad Cockrell dropped this simple treasure on us and it nearly brought me to tears:
Oh to be loved by JesusOh to be loved by himOh to have joy and peace withinOh to be loved by himHe knows the names of my sorrowsHe knows the names of my fearsWhy should I let them bother me?For I know he is nearOh to be loved by JesusOh to be loved by himOh to have joy and peace withinOh to be loved by himAnd if no other will love meIn this life I roamThere be no love I would long forI know I am his ownOh to be loved by JesusOh to be loved by JesusOh to be loved by Jesus
Yes, I believe there is no Christmas desire I could possibly have that is greater nor one that is so fully met than to be loved by Jesus.