More than six decades have passed since I wrote a letter to Santa Claus. I'm pretty sure I couldn't spell "record player" when I was five or "Schwinn" when I was nine, but I do remember fervently wanting those items many years ago.
I loved receiving a portable dishwasher from my parents when I had given birth to their first grandchild two months earlier, and afternoon tea at The Plaza in New York City was an awesome gift from my Silver Fox a few years ago.
At this stage of my life, though, I would be an ungrateful wretch indeed if I still had a list of "stuff" I thought I needed. Instead, I've been thinking about the Heart Gifts that I believe my Heavenly Father wants me to open this Christmas and experience in 2023.
(Thank you, God, for the lives of our beautiful grandchildren represented by all those stockings).
John 14:13-14 -- "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
Mark 11:24 -- "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."
John 15:7 -- "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."
The above verses, containing words from Jesus, may seem on the surface to be something of a blank check, but I've highlighted some phrases that I think are key. What does it mean to ask for something IN HIS NAME? I believe it means that we're supposed to line up our will and desires with the will and desires of Jesus. I believe that if we ask for something IN PRAYER while we are REMAINING IN HIM WITH HIS WORDS REMAINING IN US, then we will pray as His representatives. We'll pray with His authority. Praying for something entirely materialistic that will only benefit ourselves is NOT a request that will glorify the Father. Agree? But, when we ask for healing, safety, and protection for others, when we ask for broken relationships to be mended, when we ask for forgiveness and a clean heart, we are recognizing the power of God. You all know I'm not a Bible scholar, but I have listened to 72 years' worth of sermons and Sunday School lessons, and these are conclusions I've drawn.
On that basis, here is my Christmas Wish/Prayer List --
1) A clean heart. I want past bitterness and resentments to finally be gone. (Psalm 51:10).
2) A forgiving heart. I want to be quicker to forgive than to accuse or assume the worst. (Matthew 18:21-22)
3) A compassionate heart. I want to be truly concerned with those around me who are facing crises with their health, their family, or their finances. I want to care more deeply about those around the world who are in the middle of war or natural disasters. Even more, I want to pray earnestly for those who are spiritually lost and be constantly ready to share the reality of Christ's birth, death, and resurrection. (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:12-13)
4) A heart of love, appreciation, and gratitude. I am in awe of the husband, children (and children-in-law), and grandchildren (and grandchildren-in-law) God has given me. I want to express my love to them and my gratitude to the Father much more often in the days ahead.
I am also blessed to have a large number of extended family members who enrich my life -- my brother, sister, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, and uncles. (Romans 12:10, Psalm 127:3-5)
5) A heart of rejoicing. I continually ask God to not let me become a bitter, dried-up, brittle, harsh old woman. I want to smile a lot, laugh a lot, and genuinely enjoy the people and blessings God has put in my life. I want my grandchildren to remember me as a Woman of Joy. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. While we are opening presents, eating great food, and hugging our loved ones, let's remember to thank God for the best gift ever -- the baby born in Bethlehem. Jesus. The Messiah. Emmanuel.