How To Make A Christmas List

“Can you help me make my Christmas list?” he asks. He’s asked a few times now.

I remind him again that it’s not his birthday and that…he interrupts.

“I know.” He’s angry. I lecture instead of listen.

“No, you don’t know. I want you to sit down at the table right now -”

“Dad,” he says.

“No,” I say, “I want you to sit down at the table and make a list of ten things God has already given you. All of you. Right now. Ten things you already have to be thankful for.”


“No but. Ten things. Seeing what you already have will help you stop wanting more. God has already given you everything you need. And…”

Too many words. No listening. Not my best moment.

He turns in his list first and stomps to his room to be alone.

Becky gives him a few minutes before slipping in, sitting on the side of bed and having the conversation I should have. She presses lightly and the dam breaks. The frustration spills out as I join them – I’m surprised. And proud. Never prouder.

“Adults keep asking me what I want for Christmas – my teachers, people at church. I just can’t think of anything. I need help thinking of something.”

What a problem to have: Not enough wants to list.

We killed Santa long ago. But grandparents, Sunday school teachers, neighbors, strangers at the mall – they’re all still alive and well and asking. “What do you want for Christmas?”

And we all struggle: We know that in Jesus God gave us all we need, that a full refrigerator and an empty tomb are greater gifts than we deserve – gifts enough. But the question is unavoidable too isn’t? What do you want… Sometimes it feels less like a question then a demand: Want something. Now.

I apologize for not listening, for jumping to conclusions and then… “A lot of days,” I confess, “I want more than I have. I wish I had your problem.”

Grandparents are the only ones who give him presents for Christmas. It makes them happy. So we wonder together how grandparents could still give without him getting a bunch of things he’d surely like but realizes he doesn’t really want or need.

Maybe time is the answer. He wonders if one grandfather could take him to a ball game, a grandmother could teach him how to cook something, maybe go swimming at a hotel pool, go on a hike… The list grew with no pressure.

Penelope – age seven – turns in her list last. Her Christmas list of things already given.

Christmas List

At her age I was making a list complete with catalog page numbers for easy reference. She’s on my list along with her big brother. And at this moment I don’t want a thing. God, keep it that way when I face the question again tomorrow.

Whom have I in heaven but you God. And having you I desire nothing else on earth. -Psalm 73:25