One of my personal favorite things about Christmas is the giving of gifts. I’m just kinda wired that way. I enjoy the idea of getting something for someone that I know they will like but they might not necessarily buy for themselves. At my best (which is rare), I pay attention to conversations starting around October and pick up on things that are mentioned in passing and then look on with boyish glee as my unsuspecting target of tribute receives a token that shows someone was listening!
Many times, the things that our loved ones desire are not items that we will need to scrape and save to acquire, but rather they are things that we will need to prioritize and plan. And very often these things that they truly want – family time, appreciation, encouragement – are not things that will appear on any list they put together.
And so it came to pass that I was asked: what might be on the “unpublished wish list” of pastors this Christmas? It certainly isn’t uncommon for pastors to receive presents from their flock, you know, coffee mugs and ties and the like. But what if we applied the same rubric as above (real listening) to pastor gifts? What if we the congregation heard what our shepherds talked about in living rooms and coffee shops? What would we get – or do – for them that would show, “Someone was listening!”?
It may surprise you, but if pastors made a wish list, the presents that would populate the parchment are not physical trinkets at all. They are not even gifts that they themselves would receive, but realities and realizations that their people would come to embody. These are things that pastors want for their people but can only be given by the true Gift Giver – the Holy Spirit of the Everlasting God.
As I didn’t want to present simply “Pastor Jay’s Unspoken Wish List,” I asked a few pastor friends to chime in. Here’s what we came up with as The Top 5 (Okay, 6) Things Your Pastor Really Wants for Christmas:
1. For Our Eyes to be Opened
A friend pointed out that Christmas is particularly a time in which we are reminded of the Omnipresence of God. He is and has been everywhere at all times in all of history and the future and we remember at Christmas the “fulness of time” in which he chose to reveal to us that Messiah had come. A gift that many pastors are praying for is that our people (and all people) will stop and consider the humility and wonder of God revealing Himself to men.
2. That We Keep Going
I think, as a pastor, the thing I typically want the most for my people (and the thing that I am consistently reminded I cannot provide for them) is that they never ever give up. We all face challenges and trials and disappointments. My desire for my people and for myself is that we not turn back. Some of the greatest and sweetest truths of God go from hypotheses on a page to convictions of our soul by the God-orchestrated and God-shepherded trials of our lives. I want to know and I want my people to know the deep, saturating truth of God’s love for His children that is higher, wider and deeper than they can even fathom. We only get there if we never give up. I pray that the Spirit of God empower His people to remain in the faith.
3. An iPad!
Just kidding! Wanted to make sure you were still reading… But iPads are cool…
4. For Us to See the Miracle
Christmas particularly gives us the opportunity to reflect on the “mega-truths” that echo from the manger. This baby was a cacophony of the miraculous. From the lineage that was prophesied to the location of his birth and the logistics of how it came to be is a script of unparalleled depth and orchestration. All this from a Sovereign who was bringing about the miraculous in the lives of his children – their rescue and deliverance from sin. Be it today or any day, many pastors pray that those who have not received the miracle of their rescue will behold it – and those who HAVE received the miracle will live thankful lives.
5. Presence and Peace
Another friend has been through a year that has left indelible marks in the foundation of his faith. The result has been a conviction of “Immanuel.” God IS with us. No matter where we are. To the end of the age. In hardship – He is with us. In joy – He is with us. In loneliness – He is with us. In dismay – He is with us. And really, hand-in-hand with this reality is a heart-cry of many in ministry: Peace. Peace that doesn’t simply calm us down in busy times, but SLOWS us down. That we and our people would find and dwell in Jehovah Shalom and enjoy the Sabbath rest that is Jesus. My friend said it well, “I believe that hurry is the greatest enemy to a life lived with Jesus today.” High on the list is a belonging and a rest that flavors every aspect of our lives and the lives of our people.
6. To Fall in Love with God’s Glory
At the heart of most pastors I know is a real desire for the best for their people. If they would receive any gift from their people this year it would be that they fall in unassailable love with the glory of God. The love for His glory would create a people who embody much of the things on this list. In wanting the best for ourselves and for our people, wisdom comes to realize that – though the world clamors after many things – we and they will receive ALL that we need when we truly pursue one thing: The Kingdom of our Omniscient, Empowering, Miraculous, Ever-Present, Peace-Giving God.
While I am sure there are many more items that could be added to a pastor’s secret wish list for Christmas, they pretty much condense to one thing: a desire for our people to love God with their heart, mind, soul and strength and love each other as themselves (call it the Luke 10:27 wish list). We want for ourselves and for our people the joy of walking in full fellowship with our Savior.
Jay Sampson is the Teaching Elder at Heritage Church in Shawnee, Oklahoma where he pastors literally tens of people every week. A father of three and aspiring fantasy baseball champion, Jay has been teaching at Heritage since 2007. Weekly podcasts can be found at www.heritageshawnee.org.
Publication date: December 11, 2014