What Do You Want For Christmas?

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More than one person asked me “What do you want for Christmas?” I took my grandson to see Santa, and Santa asked him the same thing. I began to think that this is perhaps the most frequently asked question during the Christmas holiday season.

We answer the question by naming some material item we want. How else would we answer; we live in a very materialistic culture. After Christmas is over we make conversation by asking, “What did you get for Christmas,” then we name what we got.

Maybe the Christ of Christmas should be higher on our list.

Isn’t Christmas supposed to be about celebrating Jesus and his coming into the world to save us from the things that do not ultimately satisfy, things that do not lead to a happy life? But let’s not be too hasty to criticize the materialism of Christmas. In a world where all of us experience disturbing problems and sufferings, the peaceful and joyous spirit of Christmas does give people a welcome break from their problems. Unfortunately, it does nothing to help us overcome our problems and sufferings because when the happy holidays are over, the troubles are still there. Since that is the case, it might do us well to consider more deeply what we want for Christmas. Maybe the Christ of Christmas should be higher on our list.

Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘I want peace of mind to calm my worries and anxieties’, or ‘what I want is to have my broken relationships put back together?’ Aren’t there better gifts in life than the material things we want, like our health for example?”

My physical therapist and I were recently talking about Christmas as he was helping me with my lower back pain. I brought the subject up, I said, “It seems like a frequently asked question during this season is, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’

Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘I want peace of mind to calm my worries and anxieties’, or ‘what I want is to have my broken relationships put back together?’ Aren’t there better gifts in life than the material things we want, like our health for example?” My therapist agreed. In fact, I was surprised when he commented, “Yeah, no one thinks of Jesus.” We all have serious times of suffering from life’s problems, yet it rarely occurs to people that there might be a connection between the Christ and their stressful struggles. Why did Jesus come if not to help us in ways no one else can? Don’t we all want things money can’t buy?

Then, one day she visited him and was a changed person. She was relaxed, contented, no longer needing alcohol, and was feeling very much at peace. Dr Tiebout had no explanation for such a sudden change.

Psychiatrist, Dr. Harry Tiebout, now deceased, tells in his papers about a woman client from whom he learned an important key to overcoming our problems. From their many counseling sessions, he knew she was a person always tense and nervous, full of anxiety and guilt, stressed out and addicted to alcohol as a calming agent. Then, one day she visited him and was a changed person. She was relaxed, contented, no longer needing alcohol, and was feeling very much at peace. Dr Tiebout had no explanation for such a sudden change. She herself did not even know how to explain what happened to her.

Later, while attending a church service, she heard the word surrender sung in one of the songs and it suddenly dawned on her, “this is what explained her transformation.” She had surrendered her life to a higher, much needed, and truly reliable source of help. Jesus told a story about a merchant who was involved in finding the finest of pearls, probably to profit from their sales (Matthew 13:45-46). One day he discovered a pearl so valuable he had to have it for himself. He was willing to sell everything he owned in order to purchase it. Such a step is what we are willing to take if ever we find a healing way that promises to satisfy our deepest desires and need for a new life. That pearl of great price is Christ Jesus and life in his kingdom on earth and in heaven. He is the eternally existing one who God sent into the world to provide the answer to our problems and sufferings, even to give us hope and peace in the face of death.

Rather than bemoan a growing materialism and secularism’s rejection of Christ in Christmas, perhaps we should see Christmas as a great time for Christ-followers to find a way to give witness to our fellow neighbors and friends, telling them of the greatest gift one could want for Christmas, and letting them know the reason why.

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Jay Ashbaucher
Jay Ashbaucher is a native of Northwest Ohio and is currently a retired pastor and published author. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and has been a pastor and teacher in Montana for over 44 years. Jay taught grief classes in a hospital setting, and worked for twenty years as a fifth-step counselor and lecturer in an alcoholic-drug treatment center getting to know the hearts of people struggling to get well. While pastoring in Montana, he had enjoyed racquetball, hunting, fishing, and traveling the Big Sky State. Now living in Southeast Michigan, Jay enjoys his family, reading, hiking, golf, time with friends, and time with his fun-to-be-with wife. They have two happily married children and seven grandchildren.

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