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Hello everyone! What are some of your favorite things to do on Sabbath? I like to watch nature shows, listen to music, and read! :)

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What Do You Really Want for Christmas?

by Melissa Howell

Close your eyes!” ordered the tiny handwritten note inside the box I’d just opened. My heart skipped a beat . . . could it be?  Was it possible? Were all my dreams about to come true? Eagerly I pressed my palms over my eyes to force them shut. My ears took over as I waited in excitement that Christmas morning.
I heard two people leaving the room, the back door opening. Whispers. Then . . . yes, the telltale sounds of my greatest wish being realized: wheels turning, tires bumping up over the step. I knew for certain even before my mom exclaimed, “Now, open your eyes!” The mountain bike I’d spent six months wishing and hoping for was mine.

Sure enough, it stood before me in all the glory and grandeur that any 12-year-old could ever imagine. And with it, the sure promise of a better life: no more trail rides on a one-speed, trying to keep up with everyone else. I had real gears, strong tires, and freedom to roam the hills. To this day that mountain bike remains one of the best Christmas gifts I ever received.

It’s funny how my Christmas desires have changed over the years: from dolls and toys, to bikes and books, to clothes and makeup and shoes, to plane tickets home from overseas, and then to my own truck. Don’t get me wrong, I’d actually still kind of like a brand-new mountain bike for Christmas, even now as an adult. But it’s not what I want most—it’s not even close.

What I want most seem to be the kinds of things that money can’t buy. For example, I’d like to know that my future is going to turn out OK. I’d like assurance that all my dreams and goals will be realized, and that I will be happy and satisfied with my life at the end of it (whenever that may be). If someone could wrap up the secret to contentment in a tiny box for me, I think it would be more valuable than any diamond. No pretty parcel could compare to the satisfaction of knowing that my life matters, seeing I am making a difference in the world, and living out the talents God gave me to use. The greatest gift my husband and I could be given now is the ability to grow old together. And I’d trade all my Christmas presents past and present to be able to know that all my loved ones will be together in heaven someday.

Oh, I admit, I want silly things too, such as an entire month to just take naps, and then another three months to simply be free to read good books. I want to spend a year getting paid to travel the world and write about it. I want to eat a bag of potato chips at every meal. And who among us hasn’t wished for more time or energy?

We all know that the Christmas season is supposed to be about giving, joy, memories, family, and the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior. But if we are honest, most of us would admit that a significant portion of our minds become obsessed with “What I want!” each December. And the more we focus on what we want, the harder it is to focus on being thankful for what we already have, or on what truly matters in life. The more I think about my own desires, the less I’m able to be sensitive to the real-life needs of people around me. This is true for anytime of the year, not just Christmas. The ever-tempting tendency to get stuck focusing on ourselves makes it increasingly difficult to become filled with the selfless, soul-seeking passion that every Christian in love with Jesus can possess.

Come to think of it, that’s another thing I’d love to put on my Christmas list: a deeper desire to save the lost (because sometimes I get busy and forget the entire point of this journey we’re walking). To go along with that desire, I regularly crave wisdom, protection from doubt, integrity, and honesty. Peace that the world can’t touch. I desire a more steadfast faith, a daily dose of abundant joy, and about a truckload of unending patience.

The good news is that I can have all these price tag-less gifts anytime, during any season of the year, if I ask Jesus for them. They are the gifts of His Spirit, the natural results of Him alive and active in my life. What I love is that I don’t have to try harder or muster more strength to achieve these gems. Instead, all I need to do is to spend time with my Savior, and He will, in His time, give and grow these things in me.

So while we’re mentally compiling our wish lists this year, let’s make time to compose another list as well: the list of things we’d like God to give us and grow in us. I want to make it a goal, not just this season but all year long, to spend time with Jesus seeking these things. I know for a fact that when I begin to see God’s power manifested in my life, the joy and excitement surpasses even the best Christmas surprises I’ve ever experienced—yes, even that mountain bike.

Melissa Howell is a speaker and author in the Seattle area with an M.Div. from Andrews University. She used to love traveling, backpacking, writing, and reading, but now that she has four kids (including 1-year-old twins), all she wants is a full night’s sleep!

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