— By JOHN PAUL CARTER
Every Christmas when Carole unpacks her large collection of Santas, we have a lively conversation about where my favorites should go. I lobby for the same place they were last year. But when she counters by threatening to leave the decorating to me, I quickly give in.
However, there’s one Santa that I insist must occupy a prominent place on our mantle. It’s a small Mary Engelbreit china statue I gave Carole when we first married. Ann Estelle – the prim and proper little girl with glasses, bobbed hair, and broad-brimmed hat – is sitting on Santa’s lap reading her Christmas-wish-list.
Her list is so long that it reaches to the floor … twice. Santa Claus is rolling his eyes with this “oh well” look on his face. The caption on the base of the figurine reads, “It Can’t Hurt To Ask.”
That Santa is one of my favorites because I hope it will encourage Carole to tell me what she wants for Christmas. Unlike Ann Estelle, she sometimes has no list at all. It’s hard to shop for someone who won’t even give you a hint! But then – as she would tell you – I have the same problem.
Christmas is about asking, wishing, longing, wanting, needing and hoping. But there’s another side of gifting. What would be the fun of giving if the other person didn’t want or need the gift? Much of the joy of the season is in pleasing our loved ones.
However, our deepest Christmas wishes go far beyond a prissy little girl sitting on Santa’s lap with her long list. The familiar carol “Little Town of Bethlehem” rightly proclaims, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Bringing our hopes and needs to Jesus isn’t like sitting on Santa’s lap with a long list of wants and wishes. Most of our deepest needs can’t be wrapped and put under a Christmas tree. They are matters of the heart and are as wide as the world in which we live.
Besides, God already knows us better than we know ourselves. Prayer isn’t about informing God. It’s more like sharing our deepest desires and passions in dialogue with a loved one or a trusted friend – sometimes with sighs too deep for words.
In his beautiful song “Thankful,” Josh Grogan expresses my hopes and wishes this Christmas:
So we pray for
What we know can be.
And every day we hope for
What we still can’t see.
It’s up to us to be the change.
And even though we all can still do more,
There’s so much to be thankful for.
It can’t hurt to ask!