The Sears Wish Book and Our Christmas Longings

We long for better things because we instinctively know we were created to enjoy our life.

It arrived every November, wrapped in cellophane, its pages filled with new possibilities. On the cover, a dreamy holiday image, pulling your heart into the season and beckoning you to indulge in hours of wish making.

It’s hard to overestimate the sheer joy the Sears Wish Book brought to my young heart. Before Amazon and Apple. Before Walmart and Black Friday. Before Facebook and Google. Every year, I waited with anticipation and longing for the day this catalog would come.

A savvy wisher would ignore the advice on the front page, which warned shoppers against skipping to other sections and “missing out” on possible gems like Garfield piggy banks, board games, and Chicago Bears pajamas nestled among the cheesy sweaters, cheap jewelry, and knife sets. The gems, every child knew, were found in only one place—the toy section.

Full immersion in the Wish Book took days, not hours. A young boy had to read every caption and organize his desires. There was the practical, low-hanging fruit, ripe for the Christmas stocking: Matchbox cars, classic books, a mini Etch A Sketch. Carefully dog-earing other pages would alert parents and prepare them to consider more valuable gifts like the new Lego gas station, a baseball card collector set, a Talking Computron.

I would never have admitted this at the time, of course, but looking back on those days, it’s obvious: The anticipation surpassed even the pleasure of seeing Christmas gifts under the tree. What I realize now is, hidden in that longing there’s an innate yearning for something better—some lasting pleasure or sense of completion. Something that can’t be found in plastic and cellophane, but in the perfectly satisfying companionship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We long for better things because we instinctively know we were created to enjoy our life—to experience beauty, truth, and goodness as gifts of a loving Father. Yet every chase that ends in something tangible during this lifetime ultimately arrives at a less-than-satisfying conclusion. As Christians, we know that this longing—echoed in the soundtracks of our age, in the sentimental yarns we tell every Christmas, and in the constant grasping for the elusive next thing—is really a longing for God Himself.

The Bible, with its call to Spirit-filled endurance and constant warnings of suffering, is not a Wish Book. And yet in many ways, it sort of is—in how it rebukes our dreams and desires. The problem is not that we dream; it’s that we dream poorly. It’s not that we have wishes, but that our wishes are too small. Nor is it that we long for “what’s next” or “what’s better”; it’s that we can’t fathom the fullness of what’s truly next or better for those who love God and, as Romans 8:28 says, “are called according to His purpose.”

So go ahead and wish. Just remember, when God answers your desires, He may have something different in mind—something that may include hardship. But what He offers is a gift of greater beauty or wonder than you could ever ask or think.

This is adapted from a piece that originally appeared in In Touch Magazine.

🎄 Are you ready for Christmas? 🎄

Discover Christmas in a new way as you experience it through the eyes of the people who lived it. Join me and a group of special guests LIVE TOMORROW, December 8th at 7pm ET/6pm CT as we take a journey through the Christmas story.

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During this special online event hosted by Moody Publishers, you’ll hear from guests about their favorite Christmas character and favorite carol. Guests include:

  • Ray Ortlund

  • Beth Moore

  • Trillia Newbell

  • Scott James

  • Rachel Welcher

  • Jonathan Pennington

  • Jen Michel

  • Ronnie Martin

As a special bonus for attending, you'll get a discount code from Moody Publishers for 40% off my book, The Characters of Christmas! Space is limited, so register now to reserve your spot. You won't want to miss this special event!

This Week on The Way Home Podcast

Jared Moore joins me on The Way Home podcast to talk about teaching our kids how to think about and embrace pop culture—movies, music, social media, and cultural artifacts. He helps parents walk through and navigate some of these challenges beyond just what is right and what is not right but how we consume cultural artifacts and look in them for themes that relate to biblical truths. 

Listen Now

Interesting Links

  • I’ve been reading less political stuff, trying to just cleanse my palate a bit after a divisive election season. I’m worn out a bit on politics.

  • Leah Libresco Sargeant writes a beautiful and haunting long read about Trappist monks who create child caskets, for free, for grieving parents.

  • Mary Eberstadt writes about the fatherlessness crisis in America and it’s disturbing social symptoms.

  • Evan Welcher writes a wonderful piece on why we need Advent after a difficult year. I wholeheartedly agree.

  • Sarah Zylstra wrote a really fascinating profile of David Wells, a former radical turned Christian scholar. I’ve loved Wells work over the years.

  • My former colleagues at ERLC hosted a very helpful seminar with Dr. Francis Collins at the National Institutes for Health on the reliability and efficacy of the coming COVID19 vaccines. I encourage you to watch this.

  • Lastly, I’m including this family update from my friend Tim Challies, who tragically lost his son last month. I am in awe of the way he’s been publicly modeling grief and faith and brokenness.

What I’m Reading

Personal Projects

  • I’ve written a few pieces:

    • One for Christianity Today on podcasting and preachers

    • One for Lifeway on what Christmas means in a time of COVID. I’ll have another Christmas piece out at USA Today soon.

  • I’m excited about Characters of Easter due out next Spring from Moody Publishers.

  • And I’ve got a couple of other book projects that will launch next summer.

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