Christmas Is So Much More Than a Wish

By Tom Gilson Published on December 24, 2019

The Starbucks coffee cup from a few years back read:

We invite you to listen to your desires and to renew your hope. To see the world not as it is, but as it could be. Go ahead. Wish. It’s what makes the holidays the holidays.

Wishing, it says, is “what makes the holidays the holidays.” Try not to see reality, the world as it is. Wish for something else. That’s what the celebration is all about.

Doesn’t that seem sad to you? It does to me. Not bad, not evil, but sad. Does wishing help us renew hope? Yes, maybe, by allowing us to imagine that things don’t have to be this way. Great reforms have been led by men and women who’ve said, “this is not good, and it can be changed.”

They’re not wishers, they’re dreamers. There’s a difference. People can make a difference, living their lives in pursuit of great dreams. Wishes are passive. They need a lucky leprechaun or fairy godmother to do anything useful. Or in other words, they have no power but to serve as poignant reminders that things are not as we would like them to be.

Childlike Christmas Wishing

Still, wishing is a child-like thing to do, and Christmas, they say, is for the children. I suppose that’s why the coffee cup speaks of wishes. Maybe it’s intended to remind us of our wishes and hopes of childhood, before we saw the world as it was, or when we saw it for what it was but hadn’t learned yet that wishes by themselves do nothing.

Except for this: when we were children, some of us discovered that expressing our wishes to our parents resulted in our wishes coming true on Christmas morning. Parents can be wish-granters. If the wish-granter parent is wise, he or she will know when it is best to grant the wish and when it is best not to. And then if that parent has the resources to match the good wishes, children often do find their wishes come true.

Many of us experienced this kind of thing as children. Many of us wish we did. All of us would like to see the world as it could be rather than as it is, because regardless of where we came from, all of us have been disappointed with the way the world is.

Christmas Means Christianity Isn’t Wishful Thinking — and Vice Versa

Some have said Christianity is about believing in a magical wish-granter. Let us ignore (this time at least) the impact of such loaded language and simply ask, suppose someone has a wish and directs it toward God: is there someone there listening, or is God as unreal as the leprechaun? Could he actually be a wish-granter, in the same way the wise parent can be at Christmas? Is that such an outlandish thought?

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Hope must be built on something real, or else it is empty wishing indeed. Israel’s hope for a Messiah was based on centuries of relationship with God, and on his promises. Christ Himself was “the hopes and dreams of all the years,” as the carol says.

Celebration ought to involve something more than closing our eyes to reality: there ought to be something truly good and joyful to celebrate together. What’s made the “holidays” the “holidays” for millions of people for many years has been that the “holidays” included Christmas, celebrating the fulfillment of Israel’s hope, and Christ as the basis for our own renewed hope.

A Prayer for True Celebration

The Starbucks cup tastes of disappointments and empty hopes. The true holiday of Christmas is about God making the world different, full, and bright. It’s about hopes fulfilled and disappointments turned into joy.

My wish for you, my prayer to the truly existing God for you, is that you will taste the reality of celebration. God has come to renew our hope, to begin to make the world what it really can be, even to make us what we really can be. And to show how great He is in doing so!

Don’t just, “Go ahead. Wish.” Celebrate — and have a very merry Christmas!

Originally published at Thinking Christian. Used by permission.


Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream, and the author of A Christian Mind: Thoughts on Life and Truth in Jesus Christ and Critical Conversations: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens, and the lead editor of True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism.

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