Christmastime was upon us. Santa had come on a fire truck to Downtown Lodi, and my brother Rocky and I had browsed the aisles at Woolworth's looking for Christmas bargains.
Now it was time for us to open The Book.
I'm not talking about the Bible, though we certainly knew that was where the real Christmas story was found. Anyone who had seen "A Charlie Brown Christmas" knew that. Besides, we'd been rehearsing our parts in the church Christmas program for weeks.
No, I'm talking about the Sears Wish Book. To a kid, this was The Book that promised Christmas joy.
The task was simple: Start on Page 1 and, taking turns, circle the things on every page you want. This always got a little boring in the clothing sections (especially girls' clothes and women's shoes), but choices had to be made on every page. That was the rule.
And when we finally got to the pages filled with toys, greed knew no bounds. Ralphie may have only wanted a Red Ryder BB Gun. We wanted it all.
Of course, we knew we couldn't have it all, not even a fraction of it. So we marked certain items with a big star to indicate our deepest desires, should mom or dad (hopefully) check The Book later.
Looking back, I'm grateful we didn't get what we asked for. I mean, what would I have done with a four-speed blender?
But imagine for a moment that God invites you to ask for whatever you want. What would you ask for?
This actually happens in The Book (I'm talking about the Bible now, not the Wish Book) when Solomon becomes king. God appears to Solomon in a dream and says, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you."
The Wish Book is wide open. Solomon, overwhelmed by the weight of his new crown and the responsibility of leading a nation, asks for one simple, profound thing: wisdom.
He could have asked for a gold-plated throne, a fleet of chariots — even a four-speed blender. Instead, he asks for a wise heart to discern right and wrong so that he can govern well. God is so pleased with the request that he throws in riches and honor beyond Solomon's wildest dreams.
Solomon chose wisely and experienced God's lavish abundance. Reports of his wisdom and wealth prompted world leaders to visit and pay tribute to him. His wise sayings were collected and recorded, influencing people around the world, even to the present day (see the Book of Proverbs).
Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, Solomon lost his singular focus on seeking God and became consumed in the quest for more — more horses, more chariots more wealth, more gods. He forgot the simple truth stated in Proverbs: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
It's a crazy thing, Christmastime. The whole point is to celebrate the coming of the One who offers hope, joy and abundant life beyond our wildest dreams. Jesus, who never owned much, not even a blender, made it clear that there is no profit in gaining everything the world has to offer, and losing your own soul.
It's easy to turn Christmas into a frenzied rush to lay our hands on everything the Wish Book or the nearest mall has to offer. We can get to the end of the season and nearly drop dead of exhaustion. We can lose sight of what the whole Story is about.
So take a moment this Christmas to slow down, take a breath and consider Jesus' invitation to seek him for life. Choose wisely.
Rod Suess is senior pastor at Vinewood Community Church in Lodi.