She gathers her supplies: pencil, paper, & all the Christmas catalogs. For weeks, she & her brothers have been pouring over those glossy pages until they're dog-eared & crinkly. She's studied the pictures of Lego sets & sounded out the names of each new Barbie. Now, her Mom has told her to write down her favorite things on a list for Christmas. This is her chance to tell her parents exactly what she would like to find under the tree on December 25th. She painstakingly copies down the words from the catalogs, letter-by-letter. Her handwriting isn't the best, but she trusts her parents will know what she means.
This scenario has played out for years for American children - getting to express their very biggest wishes in hopes that they might come true on Christmas morning. For my 5-year-old daughter, this is her first year writing out her own Christmas wish list & she couldn't be more dedicated in her task.
While we do our best to help our kids remember that they won't get EVERY item on their list, their little faces still radiate joy as they anticipate what we will wrap up & place under the tree just for them.
As I read the wobbly letters that made up page 1 (of 3 - so far) of Tyndale's Christmas list, I started thinking about a part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was talking about how earthly parents give their children good gifts, but the Heavenly Father is an even better gift-giver.
So, I want to meditate on the precious gift of prayer & the promises of Jesus in Matthew 7:7-11.
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8)
As children are entirely dependent on their parents (& grandparents & uncles & aunts) for fulfilling their Christmas wishes, we are completely dependent on our Heavenly Father to fill the needs of our hearts.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not equating God to some celestial Santa. He's not genie or a fairy godmother or even a slot machine.
He is the Almighty Creator of the universe. He is the patient & kind Father who knows us better than we know ourselves. He is our Holy & Righteous Judge. He is our Sovereign King.
And yet - He invites us to ask, to seek, to knock. And He promises that we'll receive, find, have the door opened.
"To pray is to enter the treasure-house of God and to gather riches out of an inexhaustible storehouse." - C.H. Spurgeon
So, why don't we ask?
Maybe we minimize our problems in light of what we see others going through. Maybe we don't want to bother anyone. Maybe we figure we can handle the situation or white-knuckle through it. Maybe we feel like we're complaining too much & should be thankful for what we have.
But there are no such restrictions to this promise. You know what those objections do? They set us up as knowing more than God. And they limit this avenue of blessing that God has opened wide for us.
Boldly speak your requests before your Heavenly Father. And in so doing, you are acknowledging your utter dependence on Him.
Let's take a minute & check in with James (one of Jesus's earthly brothers & a leader of the early church) & just clarify that we're not using Jesus's words to spread the false "health & wealth" or prosperity Gospel.
The emphasis should never be on ourselves. The focus should be on God Alone.
"You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your own passions." (James 4:3)
We're not spoiled kids running through the toy store screaming, "Gimme!" We're not operating with a heart of envy & pride. We're not living with the "I deserve this" attitude that the world has.
We're humbly coming to God with our needs &, yes, our wants. But the heart behind that is not seeking our own pleasure or ease or fame. We are seeking God's Kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). We're seeking His glory. As the Reformers of old said, "Soli Deo Gloria."
Prayer is an incredible privilege. So, let's make sure our motives are aligned with God's Word.
"Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will you give him a serpent? If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:9-11)
Christmas is not quite the same when I miss out on seeing the movie "Jingle All the Way." Say what you will about Arnold Schwarzenegger's acting abilities, but no one delivers those one liners like he does ("I am not a pervert!"). But I digress... If you haven't had the joy of seeing this piece of cinematic splendor, the plot is pretty simple. A work-obsessed dad (Arnold) has waited until the last minute to search all over town for the most-coveted toy of the year - Turbo Man. Another dad (Sinbad - I miss the 90s!) also happens to be on the same mission. Hilarious hi-jinx ensue.
(Where was I going with that? Oh yeah!)
As parents (or aunts or friends), we want to give good gifts to our loved ones. We want their eyes to light up when they open the PERFECT gift that we've picked out. Sometimes, we will even go to great lengths to buy that gift.
If we, as sinful, fallible, finite human beings, know how to give good gifts, how much better of a gift giver is our Holy, Perfect, Infinite Father?
Let's peek back over at what James has to say about this.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (James 1:17)
The notes in the study Bible I'm looking at say this - "Everything related to divine giving is adequate, complete, and beneficial." (MacArthur Study Bible)
Adequate, Complete, Beneficial - wow! I can look around and see dozens of things that God has provided that at the very least meet those criteria. I also see plenty of things that are above & beyond that!
Every good thing in my life is none of my doing. It is all from my gracious & generous Father.
Before you go, I want to say one more thing. God gave the most perfect gift over 2,000 years ago - His Only Son.
You see, mankind had a major problem - sin. We are all born sinners & must pay the penalty for breaking God's laws.
God the Son became flesh & was born a helpless baby. He grew up & lived a sinless life. And one day, cruel men arrested Him & mocked Him. The beat Him & nailed Him to a cross. And there He died, taking the full penalty for our sins.
The lavish gift of our salvation was bought with the blood of Jesus. And it is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And what do we have to do to receive this gift? Reach out in faith.
If you've never done that or if you have questions, please ask! I'd be honored to share what little I know so that you can enjoy this most wonderful gift!
For those of us who are believers, are we living in the light of this wonderful gift? Are we struggling under guilt over past sin or are we walking in freedom because of what Jesus did on the cross? Are we operating from a place of gratitude for the sacrifice Jesus made or are we forgetting the love He showed in laying down His life for us?
Let's walk out the Gospel for all the world to see!
During this festive season, as you dash from store to store (or maybe just click the "add to cart" button a few times), don't forget to thank God for the good gifts He gives.
And when that precious little one hands you the list that's a mile long, give them realistic expectations (ha!). But also let it serve as a reminder of the privilege we have of bearing the deepest longings of our hearts with God. And the incredible responsibility of acting as an earthly model of the Heavenly father that loves each of us so much!
What gifts are you rejoicing over this year? Please share in the comments below!
P.S. - If you happen to be looking for meaningful gifts for the little ones in your life this year, take a look at my gift guide! It's full of some of the best & most creative faith-based toys I've found as I shop for my kids. Enjoy!
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