Desire: it’s not what you think.


Everyone has desires.

Most of us just don’t want to discuss them.

Indeed, our desires are so complex it takes 27 Hebrew words to express them.

The Christmas hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” connects our desire to a source outside ourselves. The hymn quotes Haggai 2:7 “the desire of the nations” as a reference to The One who will come to fill all our desires. Translation of the passage is difficult. “Desire” is best understood the treasure to be brought to into God’s future Kingdom. Our anticipation, our desire, is linked to something yet to come, Someone for whom treasures are worthy. Our earthbound desire has an otherworldly source.

In C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair Puddleglum desires Aslan and Narnia. Puddleglum was on Aslan’s side, whether there was Aslan or not, and he desired Narnia, whether there was Narnia or not:

All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always like to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan Himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live like a Narnian even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives look for Overland. Nor that our lives will be very long, I should think; that that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.

Puddleglum is right. Aslan, our coming King, is our desire. Why? Because we know our desires on this earth just don’t measure up. (Hebrews 12:18-29)

Since my earliest years of teaching high school, I reminded my students of Lewis’ famed quote:

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Christmas is a time when people have deep longings, great desires. We want fulfillment for the ache which wrenches our soul. And Christians know that our soul will only find rest in a world outside our own, in Someone outside ourselves. 

This Christmas, may we meet people where they are, because every person desires what is… 

1. Personal: our desires relate to us as individual people

2. Emotional: our desire connects to how we feel

3. Cultural: our desire is relevant to our time and place

4. Usable: fulfillment of our desire must be practical

5. Real: our desire is not the basis for faith but the result of faith

The hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” anticipates Jesus (“Emmanuel” means “God with us”).  The chorus of the song says it all, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” And Haggai 2:7 adds that all nations, all peoples will only be fulfilled by that same desire.

The Hebrew language may have 27 different words translated as “desire.”

But Puddleglum’s desire, our desire, every person’s desire is translated in only One Person: Jesus.


One of Mark’s favorite Christmas hymns, “O Come, O Come Immanuel” is his heart’s desire.

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