Have you been asked the question yet? You know the one. You get it even in Covid times. It usually pops out around the first week of December and, depending on the shopping habits of your family members, could linger until late Christmas eve:
“So, what do you want for Christmas . . . ?”
Some of us have lots of suggestions, and make long lists that we stick on to the fridge. But, here’s what I find. We tend to ask for things we think we might actually get. Like, new snow shoes, or a nice merino wool sweater that breathes so that you don’t get all sweaty underneath.
Do you find that what you really want you would never write down on any list? What you really want is to get out of bed with a sense of purpose and love of life. What you really want is to have a good sense of who you are. And what you are created to do.
What you really want is to not have to live in fear. What you really want is to know that the future will bring blessing. That there will be good things ahead. You can’t write those things down and stick them on the fridge. That would be silly. No, it’s just a lot easier to ask for the flat-screen TV, because, odds are you’ll end up getting that.
What we celebrate at Christmas are the gifts that Jesus brings into the world. And, whatever you end up getting under the tree, what Jesus brings are the true gifts of Christmas. These are the things you really want.
The first is HOPE. The hope of God is knowing that in even your struggle, there is a greater plan and a bigger picture for your life that someday you will see in full technicolour. The hope of God is knowing that all things will work together for good. I know that can sound cliché. But it’s true. God will take your brokenness, and your heartache, and weave it into something beautiful. If you trust God to do so.
The second is PEACE. John Lennon sang “I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind”. He had everything; money and fame and talent off the map. He was a Beatle, for heaven’s sake, it just doesn’t get any better than that. And yet, he cried out for peace. Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest. Take who I am into your life, and I will give you this peace.” (Matthew 11:28) Over and over, Jesus says “just trust me”. I can do that.
The third gift is JOY. In the Christmas story, the angels sang to the shepherds, “Behold, we bring you good news of great joy, for unto you this day is born a Saviour who is Christ the Lord”. (Luke 2:10) Notice, in that verse, that the joy comes from knowing we’re saved. What does Jesus save us from? Well, from fear. Wouldn’t it be awesome not to have to live in fear? Fear of not having any purpose in life: God has a plan, not just for you, but for all of creation. Fear of failure: God accepts who you are, and forgives your mistakes. Fear of being alone: The Holy Spirit is with you, and will help you and give you strength. Fear of death: The end of this life is not the end of life at all, but the beginning of a beautiful eternity. And, maybe most of all, fear of not being loved . . .
The fourth gift is LOVE. The central message of the bible is that you are loved, and that you are precious. You are wonderfully made, in the very image of God. You are the child of a King, and heirs to everything God is. And because of that, God will provide for you what you need.
And when Jesus was asked “what’s the most important teaching of all?” Jesus said “As God loves you, go and love your neighbour.” And by the way, that’s how miracles happen. And not just at Christmastime. So “go, and love each other.”
The people here who are older, who have had time to look back on their lives, they will tell you, “The most important things in this life are not the trinkets and the tinsel. Or all the things that garages get filled up with. You really don’t remember any of that. What you do remember are the people you have shared yourself with. You remember your friends. You remember your relationships. You remember the stranger you invited in. You remember the friend that was once an enemy. You remember Love.
We believe that the person of Jesus brings these things into our lives. HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE. They can be a part of your life. It’s a gift for you. Accept it.
After all, it is what you really want for Christmas.
Peace be with you, and Merry Christmas!