Is Jesus First on Your Christmas Wish List?
About eight years ago, I spent a week at a leadership practicum. At some point the teacher (Wayne) told the story of a time when his church and all their satellite congregations planned a large outdoor gathering so they could worship together. They hoped well over 10,000 of their people would attend and bring some friends. It surely was going to be a great event—one of those “time of your life” kind of days!
Unfortunately, it didn’t look like the weather was going to cooperate. The forecast said it would be a day filled with rain. The night before the scheduled event, Wayne had people praying. He also prayed through much of the night asking God to withhold the rain and send the clouds somewhere else. That morning, in spite of his impassioned prayers, the rain fell.
When the Rain Falls
Wayne went to the park where the gathering was going to be held. After watching folks who were trying to cover up sound equipment, he went to a solitary place in the park. With no one around, he started praying to God—criticizing God’s plan and asking him why in the world he would let them put such a tremendous amount of work and money and planning into an event like this, and then he wouldn’t even keep it dry! He was detailing for God all the problems the rain was going to create, including the likelihood that thousands of people would stay away!
If you had seen Wayne from a distance in those moments you probably would have thought he was a holy man beseeching God to stop the rain. Instead, he was just a human being complaining to God about all the problems he was causing by not giving them a dry day!
Then, in the breath Wayne took between two complaints, the Spirit of God spoke to his heart and convicted him with these words: “Wayne, you are more concerned about the absence of your problems than you are concerned with the presence of Jesus.”
Removal of Problems vs. Presence of Jesus
I have to be honest—those words pierced my heart. Too often I pray for the removal of my problems; too rarely I pray for more of the presence of Jesus. Too often I ask God to bless my plans; too rarely I ask for the blessing of God’s presence. Too often I desire the power of Jesus to solve my problems more than I simply desire the presence of Jesus in the midst of my problems.
In Exodus 33, Moses is promised the power of God to fix his problems; but for Moses that wasn’t enough. He beseeched God, “Don’t send us up from here without your presence. What will distinguish us from all the other people on the earth if we do not have your presence?” Moses was willing to trade all the power of God for all the presence of God.
Which is more important to you—the absence of problems or the presence of Jesus? The answer to that question will shape your Christmas wish list.
Questions to Ponder
- What is on my Christmas prayer list?
- Which gets more of my prayer energy—prayers for Jesus’ power or prayers for Jesus’ presence?
- If God offered me the choice right now between his power for my problems or his presence for my life, which would I choose?
At the very heart of Christmas is the presence of Jesus. Let’s make sure he is at the top of our Christmas wish list!
Heavenly Father, I need the presence of Jesus even more than I need his power. This Christmas season give me the desire for his presence more than anything. Deepen my hunger. Ignite the fire of my heart. Open my eyes to see Jesus. May we know Immanuel, God with us, more than ever before. Amen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Nold
Dan Nold is lead pastor of Calvary Church in central Pennsylvania. As a multi-site congregation, Calvary Church holds six weekend services in four locations. Dan is passionate about leadership development and church unity, as well as equipping believers in Myanmar. You can follow Dan on his website or on Twitter.