On the Side: December 2022
Waiting for the Gift
by Laura McLean Thomas
The Christmas season is upon us! I love the smells, the lights and the traditions. One tradition we have in our family is to not put any Christmas gifts under the tree until after the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve. It is a tradition born out of practicality: we had curious toddlers in our house for more than 10 years. But even now, when our youngest is 11, we still keep all the gifts safely tucked away until late Christmas Eve. It is so much fun to see the surprise on their sleepy faces Christmas morning!
Thinking back over Christmases past, not once did the kids get scared the tree would be bare on Christmas morning. Not once did they fret or whine over where their presents were. Not even when we visited friends’ homes where all their beautifully wrapped boxes were displayed beneath their trees. They had made out their lists, they dreamed about tearing off the wrapping paper, they counted every minute…but they didn’t worry.
There have been years when we had to celebrate a day or two late because of Daddy’s call schedule. But even as their anticipation mounted, they trusted that when the time finally came the gifts would be there, even if it was later than everyone else.
There have been a few prayers on my “wish list” for many years. I am not-so-patiently waiting for the Lord to answer. Patience is hard, and sometimes it is easier to feel like God isn’t hearing me. But in Luke 11, when Jesus is teaching His disciples about prayer, He tells them “…keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9, NLT). So, I keep on asking, keep putting it on my “wish list,” and I am waiting for the Lord to answer me—because I know He will answer. I must have faith, like my children, that when the time is right the “gift” will be given. In Matthew 7:9-11, Jesus says, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (NIV).
God knows what I need, and He is a loving Father. I need to trust Him that He will answer my prayer. As Jesus later said: “And whatever things you ask for in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22, NKJV). Like my kids, I need to have a trusting, joyful expectation of the “gift” He is waiting to give me.
There are, of course, times when we don’t receive the gifts we ask for because we do not ask, or we ask with wrong motives, or we ask for something God does not want us to have. Like my son, who is 11, and is asking for an iPhone. He knows that in our family he has to wait until he is 13. He has been told over and over…but he still asks. He has fallen into the trap so many of us do: “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure” (James 4:3, NLT).
Other times God answers our prayers, but we don’t see the gifts when they do come because our expectations keep us blinded. We want God’s answers to be profound and jaw-dropping, wrapped in a pretty package with details that perfectly match our specifications. But God knows what we need, how we need it and when to give it.
Like when the people of Israel were longing for, praying for, a Savior. A mighty one that would free them from the yoke of oppression and take His rightful throne. Their prayers were answered in the form of a tiny baby boy born to a young couple in a small town. While angels rejoiced and shepherds stood in awe, most of Israel had no clue that their Savior had come. He wasn’t a military leader, or rich, or commanding. God knew that His people’s deepest need was not political but spiritual. He would free them, but not in the way they wanted. He would take the throne, but not the way they expected. As a result, many missed The Gift.
I don’t want to miss any of God’s gifts. With a thankful and expectant heart, I want to be on the lookout for ways He may answer my prayer. In this not-so-easy time of waiting, He is also giving me other blessings: like learning patience and dependence on Him.
This year, as I enjoy the brightly decorated Christmas tree in the living room, I will gratefully remember the many gifts He has already given, and I will joyfully anticipate what He has hidden away for me—just like my closet, filled with surprises for my kids to find on Christmas morning.
I pray that all your hearts are full of God’s best gift this Christmas. And that whenever you are able celebrate (due to call schedules, hospital shifts or travel), that it would be a time of joy and love.
Laura is the wife of a very busy pulmonary/critical care physician and lives in Palm Desert, California along with three kids and a 2-year-old Havanese pup (who will be tearing apart wrapping paper from one end of the house to the other).