Several years ago, my twin sons asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told them that they couldn't get me what I wanted. I looked at them, with a more serious tone than they intended the conversation to have, and told them, "You can't get me what I want for Christmas." Perplexed, they pushed me for more details. I simply told them again that they couldn't get me what I wanted. They began to guess what I wanted and, of course, they shouted out the usual answers, "World peace!" "A billion dollars!" "A new Corvette!" (I love 'Vettes.)
Exasperated, they gave up. "What do you want, then?"
"I want you to be four again," I said. "I want you to sit on the arms of my recliner like you did when you were little boys. I want to hold you very close and smell your hair."
They were disappointed in my answer. They couldn't understand why I would want them to be little boys again. And the idea of smelling their hair - well, they thought was just gross.
Of course, now that they are both fathers, they nuzzle the hair of their children every day.
When I was young, my brother and I would spend months going through various catalogs making lists of all of the toys we wanted for Christmas. We would give our parents pages and pages of suggestions only to find out later that we would only get one toy each...and clothes! The worst thing you could get for Christmas was clothes! Every now and then, I'll be rummaging through the attic and I'll find a box of toys from my childhood. Then I'll make a note to take the box to Goodwill.
I'm embarrassed when I realize how much of life has ended up in boxes stacked in the back of my car being carried off to Goodwill.
More recently, my sons have called me to find out what I want for Christmas and, as I have for the last several years, I have told them, "Nothing." I don't want them to get me anything. I have enough shirts, ties, coats, and books... well, OK, you can never have enough books...but you get my drift. I have enough stuff. Most of us do.
Here is what I want for Christmas:
I'd like to talk to my dad again. He died in 2012. He was the funniest man I've ever met. I miss his laugh. I miss him telling me how proud he was of me. I'd give anything to talk to him one more time.
I miss my mom too, but our conversation would have been different. She would be telling me what I should have been doing since she left. I wouldn't have said much, but with my mom, you didn't need to. I would have listened well.
I want time with Jeannie. I want time with my sons. I want time with my grandchildren. I want moments. I want memories. I want points of connection that I will never forget.
And then, it hits me: this is what God was after at the very first Christmas. Maybe this is what the Incarnation is about. God wants moments. He doesn't want sacrifices or fancy gifts. He wants moments, time with each of His children.
What if the throne of God isn't a large golden throne, but a recliner -- a large, fluffy one -- where children can sit on the arms of the chair and talk to their Father? What if the throne room of God isn't a grand palace filled with gold and precious jewels, but a den with Dad in His chair and all of His children playing around Him?
The scandal of Christmas is that God came to our world as a baby. He didn't come as a warrior or draped in the purple robes of royalty. He came as a vulnerable child. He stayed humble throughout His life. Jesus was always approachable. That's because God, more than anything, wants moments with His children. He doesn't want more stuff. He has everything anyway. What He wants are moments.
When you think about it, the gospels are a collection of moments -- Jesus with Peter, Jesus with His mother, and on and on. These moments are what matters to God. Every prayer, every worship song, and every Bible verse read is a chance for a moment -- a moment we'll remember for the rest of eternity.
I'm older now. I hope I'm wiser. I know now what matters -- moments with those you love. Moments with my wife, my sons, my grandchildren, and my friends...and moments with my God.