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Nostalgia for the Unknown

nostalgia
There’s a certain amount of nostalgia the creeps up during the holiday season. It begins upon the hearing of the first Christmas carol and crescendos with the dropping of the ball on New Year’s Eve. It’s as if the entire month of December was designed to draw us back into the past, into profoundly personal moments of remembrance and, perhaps, regret.

And yet, within all of this, there is a bit of nostalgia that is unlike all the rest. There is a slight flavor to some of this nostalgia that draws us back to…something…some place…some person that we cannot rightly place.

CS Lewis, in his talk entitled “The Weight of Glory,” put it this way:

In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter….Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of  some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.

There is this feeling within us that we are missing some thing we never had, forgotten some one we’ve never known, have been exiled from some place that we’ve never been. Call this feeling what you will, it gnaws at us in those songs that touch us most deeply, those books or movies that engross us most completely, or those treats that compel us most sweetly. It is a nostalgia for a “far-off country” that we would very much like to return to, if only we could remember it’s name.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
Hebrews‬ ‭11:13-16‬

Heaven. That’s it’s name! There’s the place from which we’ve been exiled—the presence of God! That’s why we feel this tug in art, in beauty, in nature, in our physical senses: all of creation finds its source in Him, and we sense this divine connection when we partake in these things with a pure heart.

We are nostalgic for Heaven, for the loving presence of God, our Creator. How wonderful!

And yet—how tragic!—we experience nostalgia for things long gone, things lost to us in the present.

But take heart! For our Creator has now become our Redeemer through Christ Jesus!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
John 14:1-4

Jesus came to this broken world so that He might live perfectly under the law which seem only capable of breaking, die sacrificially on our behalf, and rise victoriously in a grand defeat of death itself! And now because of all of this He has cleared the way for us to return to God the Father, to return to Heaven at the end of this world.

Our nostalgia, our looking back, can now be turned toward a looking-forward, a longing for that which has been promised!

The past was lost; the future has been promised. But what of the present? The present, too, is being restored. In the present, likewise, we have been restored, to some degree, to His presence.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:19-25

We may now enter boldly into the presence of God by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, and as we do this, we are to hold unswervingly to the hope, to the promise of our future return from exile, for God, the one who has promised to return for us, is faithful. Let us press into His presence and press on with His work of doing good as we see the Day of His Promise coming.

The past exile is over; the future is being restored, even now, in the present. We can begin to live in eternity now:

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
John 17:3

If we are in Christ, if Jesus has been made our Lord and Savior, we are already living eternally in our spirits. We are already experiencing the wonder and joy toward which our hitherto unnamed, unknown nostalgia was pointing us.

Friends, as the nostalgia of the season draws your heart and mind backward, thank God that you may now also freely look forward to a future—and a present!—eternity with Him.

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