The contest was simple: submit your Christmas wish list along with a drawing of something related to the holiday season. When you are in the second grade and enjoy drawing, your participation is a no-brainer. Of course, each week’s winning prize was more than enough to “sweeten the deal”: a gift pack supplied by Carolina Dairy. It was the Christmas of 1987 and our local news affiliate WNCT held a contest in conjunction with their morning show “Carolina Today.” Each week between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a lucky child would have his or her Christmas list and drawing shared by one of the show’s personalities and be the recipient of eggnog, ice cream, milk, etc. from the local company.
I pulled together my art supplies and created what I considered to be a masterpiece of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh filled with presents. On the drawing’s reverse side, I made a considerable list of toys which included: a John Deere mulch tiller, liquid manure spreader, Deutz Allis 8070 with loader, and a Tournapull (machine for moving dirt). While most kids were settling for a creepy talking teddy bear, I had my mind set on clearing land and turning soil. On the morning of one of the weekly contests, as I prepared for school, you can imagine my surprise at hearing “Kelley Smart” come from the television. I felt in that moment like a celebrity. I suppose in a local sense that is exactly what I was (at least for a couple of minutes).
Now thirty-five years removed, I continue to treasure this holiday memory. Since then, much has changed, but deep down I am still “a kid at heart.” Of those things which have changed, perhaps the most difficult has been coming up with a wish list year after year. Perhaps you feel the same way. When we are children, it seems natural that our “eyes are all aglow” for everything we see in the storefronts and catalogues. However, with the passage of time, our wants become fewer and fewer, and our needs are often supplied throughout the year. When asked what we might like to have for Christmas our response may be something like “Don’t worry about getting me anything” or, if others insist, we reply with “Anything is fine with me.” It is interesting how our longings change from everything to anything to nothing. Not that this is necessarily a bad scenario. To know that our needs are satisfied should be a great source of contentment for our lives.
However, I wish to encourage you to want something this Christmas. That may sound like a strange request from your pastor, but I really mean it. Now, I am not asking you to sit down and come up with a “list for Santa.” I do not mean dropping hints to a friend or family member. I want you to come up with your wish list for God. But…not just any wish list. I am not speaking of frivolous things. I do not mean the latest electronic device, a new outfit, or jewelry. I am not talking about fruitcake, chocolate covered cherries, or peppermint candies. I am thinking of that which no amount of money, no retail store, and no online shop can supply. What comes to mind are those longings captured in the song, “Grown-Up Christmas List.” Recorded by Natalie Cole, Amy Grant, and Kelly Clarkson to name a few, the song speaks of a world in which violence, suffering, and heartache no longer run rampant. Such desires are not expressed for the sake of self, but rather for the healing of relationships, families, and nations.
The song’s wishes may seem unrealistic in this present world. At a time when gas prices and grocery bills are up, much of the news focuses upon murder, and political parties are at each other’s throats, maybe these are mere “pipe dreams.” However, the season of Advent invites us to see things with a different set of lenses. It is to stir within each of us different longings. Hope, peace, joy, and love are to be pursued above ham, presents, jingle bells, and lights. Unfortunately, our attitude toward such things has become like that of a child, “That’s no fun. Those are boring gifts.” No, they may not come in colorful packaging with tags and bows, but what our world desperately needs today cannot possibly be bought. It is nothing over which we must fight on “Black Friday” and it never goes out of stock. The supply is endless, but we cannot and will never find it on our own accord. These gifts must be shipped from heaven above and become a reality in our pursuit of the divine will. As Jesus shared in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth just as it is in heaven.”
Once again, I encourage you to want something this Christmas, but something that is better than any gift you have received in Christmases past. Desire the greater gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love, but not for your own benefit. May these become a part of who you are and are becoming in Christ in order that our world might experience the salvation of the Lord. As we move through these weeks of Advent, it is my prayer that our priorities might be redirected and the longings of our hearts acceptable before God. It is going to be a busy stretch between now and the end of 2022, so be alert to the One Call messages, weekly bulletin, Facebook group, and Sunday announcements for all of the events of the season. From my family to each of you…
Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!
The Reverend Kelley Smart