The holidays can be magical, fun, crazy, and stresssssssful. I think about my mom for so many years making Thanksgiving dinner– days and hours of preparation for this highly anticipated meal. We would all talk about how we couldn’t wait for her homemade rolls, mashed potatoes, and of course the pie… She would lay it all out on china plates with crystal glasses- and then we would gulp it down in ten minutes. All that work. We didn’t even do her the justice of eating slowly and savoring every little bite.
Similarly as Christmas approaches we make plans days, weeks, even months out, to get ready for one or two days. We make lists upon lists- people to buy gifts for, food to prepare, things to pack…We have these niggling thoughts in the back of our minds that we hope, when all the packages are unwrapped and we lay our heads on our pillows on Dec 25th, that it will all be…fulfilling. We hope that in all of the preparations and the busyness, we don’t miss it.
Hoping to be spiritually and mentally prepared for actual Christmas, Ben and I decided to read through one of John Piper’s Advent devotionals, “Good News of Great Joy.” Just reading through the introduction left me stirred up, thoughtful of what I had read. The title alone was thought provoking enough- “What Does Jesus Want for Christmas?”
Huh. I have never asked that question before.
I have asked “what is Christmas really about?” “How can I celebrate Jesus more?” “How do I enjoy all the fun traditions of Christmas without letting them become the main thing?”
I have asked “what can I give to so-and-so that will be meaningful”? How can I represent giving in a way that is more than just exchanging stuff?
But I never asked, not once,
“What Does Jesus Want for Christmas?”
Read that question. Ask it out loud, to yourself.
Maybe you thought of some of the things I did:
“Jesus probably wants me to be nicer…”
“He probably wants me to take care of poor people.”
“Jesus probably wants me to worship Him instead of material things.”
“Jesus wants me to enjoy the holiday with my family.”
What else did you add? Maybe you had completely different answers, maybe we think alike.
John Piper doesn’t guess at these things, instead he takes us to God’s Word and points out the thing that Jesus asks for in His prayers. He too, gives his father a “wish list.”
Now I acknowledge that these aren’t Christmas wishes per se, not as we think of them anyhow– as someone asking for something knowing the holidays are coming up. Yet in a sense, EVERY desire of Jesus is a Christmas “wish” because Jesus was born into this world (Christmas) for the specific reason of bringing about the very things He was asking for.
So what did He ask for? Piper leads us to these verses:
Jesus says in John 17:24, “Father, I want these whom you’ve given me to be with me so they can see my glory…”
Jesus continues in verse 26, “I revealed you to them and will keep on revealing you. I will do this so that your love for me may be in them and I in them.”
Piper points out that in the first verse Jesus “expresses His concern for our longing.” He knows about that aching, that is sometimes dull and sometimes sharp, that lays in every man’s heart. He knows that we are hungry for something bigger than what this world offers us and He knows that the best thing we can ever taste is His glory. He wants to fill that longing in us that nothing else can fill.
Secondly, Piper points out that Jesus’s “final goal” for us is “Not that we simply see his glory, but that we love him with the same love that the Father has for him [as seen in the words] ‘I will do this so that your love for me may be in them and I in them’.”
Piper doesn’t want us to miss this: Jesus wants us to see Him and savor Him. He wants us to love Him with the same love that the Father has for Him- truly miraculous.
When I listen to Jesus’s wish list I am awed and humbled, excited and nervous. How beautiful that He wants things for me at Christmas that I do not even ask for myself! I asked for new clothes. He asked for me to see and savor his glory, to be filled beyond all filling. Jesus knows that when I see Him and savor Him as the Father does, it will be the Christmas present of all Christmas presents. It will far exceed even our best moments as kids receiving what we always wanted, it will far exceed our best moments as parents watching our dear babies light up over the gifts we give them. His glory, His presence, is light and life itself.
Jesus asks not for me to just go do things for Him, not just that I would imitate the Father’s love, but that I would literally have the Father’s love for Him, in my heart. And as I read those words, I feel that love burning in there. I know that God truly has worked miracles in my heart. I ask now that He takes those moments when I feel that burning, when I am convinced of His love for me and of my love for Him, and expands them and stretches them together until they are no longer moments at all, but are the beat of my heart.
I am praying that Jesus gets what He wants for Christmas.
(Read the Advent book for free! http://www.desiringgod.org/books/good-news-of-great-joy)