One Christmas my brother and I begged my mom to get us a Nintendo Gamecube. She kept telling us no, but we kept persisting. Finally she said she would buy it, but she wouldn’t have any Christmas money leftover to buy us any games. We agreed, counting on Christmas money from grandparents.
|Kate Ter Haar (CC)|
Christmas morning we unwrapped the cube in ecstatic joy. We hooked it up to a television in my brother’s room and set the system clock and fiddled with other settings. We had managed to scrape together enough money to purchase a game for the system, but it would have to wait until stores opened the next day. So we sat on the bed, marveling at every detail of the console.
On December 26, Mom carted us to Walmart where we victoriously slapped down the $60 plus 8.25% sales tax for Luigi’s Mansion, one of the Gamecube’s launch titles. Mom wouldn’t drive home fast enough. We burst the doors open, furiously tearing through the cellophane packaging of the video game. We carefully clicked the mini disc in its spindle, fired up the system, and off we went. Our video game dreams had come true.
Sixty dollars was quite a bit of money for us jobless kids. But we thought it was well worth it to buy the game. The graphics, sound, and controllers were unlike those of any Nintendo system we’d seen before. We played the game all day, morning until night, making major headway in our efforts to rescue Mario from the ghosts. The next morning though, something awful happened.
We beat the game.
Only twenty-four hours after forfeiting our precious cash, we had rescued Mario. Game over. And this wasn’t one of those games you go back through and play again. Well, you could, but there was no real desire or incentive. It was fun while it lasted, but now the fun was over. We were back to the system clock.
I felt cheated, disappointed, empty. I could have rented the game and finished it within the rental window without paying any late fees. I was ready to move on to the next game, but I didn’t have the cash.
Ask for This, Not That
There are two Old Testament guys who had a chance to ask for just about anything they wanted. And unlike my brother and me, they didn’t ask for video games. (Most likely because they didn’t yet exist, but I don't want to read too much into the scripture.) These men didn’t ask for something ephemeral, material, or fleeting.
The first man is Solomon. Shortly after taking reign of the kingdom of Israel, God appeared to him in a vision saying, “Ask what I shall give you” (2 Chron. 1:11). You know the story. While many of us would have responded to such an astounding offer with requests like, $20,000, eliminate my enemies, or get me a Gamecube, Solomon wisely asked for wisdom (ironic, isn’t it?). God was pleased with his response, granting the request and adding to it those things he didn’t ask for: wealth, honor, a long life, peace from enemies.
The second man is Elisha. God had anointed him to succeed Elijah as prophet (1 Kings 19:16). When it was Elijah’s time for God to remove him from the earth, Elisha stayed close by. Just before God carried away Elijah on a chariot of fire, the prophet said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you” (2 Kings 2:9).
Elijah was a big deal. Through God’s power he achieved many miraculous feats. He called for a drought on Israel. He had victory over Baal’s prophets on Mount Carmel, he even raised a widow’s son from the dead. So when the prophet asked his successor what he wanted, Elisha could have asked for the moon. But just like Solomon, he didn’t request any of the things most people seek out: security, pleasure, or comfort. Instead he asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.
When’s the last time you asked for wisdom or for extra helpings of God’s Spirit? My prayers, more often than not, usually involve material and finite things. Don’t get me wrong; God definitely cares about your present situation, about illness, poverty, stress, and the like. But He’s more concerned about the long game. About the status of your soul, about the state or your relationship with Him and with others. I challenge you this yuletide season to pray specifically for God’s Spirit to be ever-present in your mind, that He would influence every word, thought, and deed. And to pray that God would grant you wisdom to discern the Truth He wants to speak in your life.
And if you want to gain a deeper understanding of Christmas, the subtext to an often told story surrounding the birth of Christ, check out this essay I wrote called, A Quick Way to Gain a Deeper Understanding of Christmas. Just tell me where to send it, and I’ll get it to you right away:
May God bless you this Christmas season.