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Christmas Nostalgia


“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” So goes the song, and indeed it is. This season brings with it all the memories and feelings, traditions and rituals. Only the most “Scrooge-like” among us can fail to be moved by the Christmas Carols, the lights and decorations, the trees, the presents, our favorite Christmas movies, the parties, the food, family gatherings and reunions — we love all the trimmings. To be sure, there’s magic in this season!

There’s a word for what the Christmas Season evokes in most of us, and that’s nostalgia. Usually the meaning of this word is reduced to something like, “a sentimental longing or the way things were in the past.” But this doesn’t really do justice to the power of our nostalgic feelings. To be sure, nostalgia has to do with remembering, with hearkening back to past experiences, but there’s something deeper than this going on when we feel “nostalgic.”

The word nostalgia originally comes from the joining of two Greek words: one meaning return home, the other meaning sick – homesick. Christmas comes around every year, and we find ourselves with conflicted emotions of joy and sadness. We remember wonderful experiences of the past, and we work very hard trying to re-create them. We remember past joys, but are a bit sad that things are different, and we can’t quite get that same joy back. We remember the joy of being home, but we’re sad that we’re not there anymore. We’re homesick. This is why this season is particularly hard for people who have suffered a loss, because Christmas will never be the same for them. The devastation wrought by the storms last weekend painfully reminds us that for so many, returning home, returning to the way things were, is incredibly difficult, if not impossible.



All of this points to the deepest truth of our existence as human beings, a truth that is revealed at Christmas, and that is that each and every one of us is homesick. We are created by and for God, and are nostalgic – homesick for Him.

How ironic it is that during this most nostalgic, homesick season, we celebrate God making His home with us in the birth of Christ – Emmanuel – God with us. Every one of us yearns for meaning and purpose, having within us what might be called a memory of what life could and should be. We long for a return to a former time, a time of innocence that we know we’ve lost. Like the Prodigal Son, we long to return home to the Father, only to find to our surprise that the Father is already running down the road to meet us.



In Christ, God has made His dwelling with us, His creation. But He comes to us not as one who is remote or inaccessible. He comes to us in this one birth of this one child. He becomes who we are, taking upon Himself the full condition of our existence, so that we might find our way home. Jesus said that “He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.

In the midst of our spiritual nostalgia, our spiritual homesickness, Christ is born. Let us welcome Him. Let us give thanks for His birth, for in Him, we find hope, meaning, and new life. In Him, we come home, and are homesick no more.


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