My Grown-up Christmas Hope

These thoughts started a conversation that was had at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, December 3, 2017. The discussion was based upon a reading from Psalm 130.
     I have developed a handout to accompany this teaching and, hopefully, further the discussion in your home or small group.  You can download it here.

It is a time-honored Thanksgiving tradition in the Juncker household after we have eaten our Thanksgiving feast, we scour the Black Friday sale ads to create our Christmas wish list.  We sit in a row and browse each ad, passing—like the turkey gravy around the table—to the left to the next family member, careful not to get them out-of-order.

Christmas is a time for wishes.  We write them down and, some of us, young and old, will  send them to a magical person.

He sees you when you’re sleeping.
He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good.
So be good for goodness sake!

As we grow older, or some might argue wiser (age has nothing to do with it) our wishes often change from detailed lists of toys and “red rider BB gun[s] with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time” to less tangible things.

In 1990, Natalie Cole released the song, “Grown-Up Christmas List.”  Amy Grant (1992) and Michael Buble (2003) sing the versions you are most likely familiar with.  My mother, who went through an Amy Grant phase, used to tourcher me with this song each Christmas.  I wanted to sing, “Grandma got run over by a reindeer,” instead:

Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee.
I wrote to you
With childhood fantasies.

Well, I’m all grown-up now,
And still need help somehow;
I’m not a child,
But my heart still can dream.

So here’s my lifelong wish;
My grown-up Christmas list,
Not for myself
But for a world in need.

No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts,
And everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end ,
This is my grown-up Christmas list

We are, throughout this season, encouraged to make wishes; but, this Christmas, I’d encourage you to hope, not just wish.  As Christians our faith calls us to wish for little (or, perhaps for nothing?).  We are called to live in hope.  There’s a difference.

Wishing isn’t hoping.

A wish is something we desire or want or yearn for.[1]  We hope for the same things, but with hope there is “reasonable confidence” that the desired outcome will happen.[2]  The primary difference between a wish and a hope is the likelihood of seeing the desired outcome.  We wish for the impossible or highly unlikely.  We hope for things that could be.

“Wish is used during desperate events (i.e. one has a deep longing for something with a slim possibility of happening).  It is also often used when expressing a desire coupled with clear sarcasm.  “Hope,” on the other hand, is used when one is confident that the desired events have a high possibility of occurring.

Take these two sentences, for example: “John wishes he could pass the exam” and “John hopes he passes the exam.”  In the first sentence, John has this impossible desire to pass the exam, but he doesn’t think he can do it, meaning he’s hopeless—so he wishes.  On the other hand, the second sentence implies that John thinks it is likely for him to pass the exam, but there are still some chances of failing it, so he hopes for his success.[3]

We wish for the unlikely and impossible.  We hope for things we believe will happen.

What do you hope for this Christmas?


My hope (for you and the world) is that you will experience in a life-transforming way the love of God found in Jesus Christ.  This isn’t an impossibility, a fanciful wish.  Our faith tells us that Christ has come.  The Spirit of Christ is here.  All we need do is receive him.

And when we do—when we receive the love of God found in Jesus Christ—then, and only then can our life-long wish, our grown-up Christmas list for this world begin to come true.

No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts,
And everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end ,

That’s my grown-up Christmas wish hope.


[1] See “wish,”  Accessed December 2, 2017.

[2] See “hope,”  Accessed December 2, 2017.

[3] “Difference Between Hope and Wish,” posted July 30, 2011,, accessed December 2, 2017.