All I Want for Christmas

4 comments Posted on November 1, 2013

by Robin Donica Wolaver

“God’s doesn’t give you what you want!” my friend said, as I followed her through the department store. “He gives you what you need.”

I’m sure she meant well, but we were Christmas shopping. How irritating! Her comment conjured up a dreary image of God scouring heaven for a dull, sensible gift—perhaps a trash can or some shoe polish.

As we rummaged through the racks, a vintage Christmas song began to play: “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.” I nudged my friend playfully. “Maybe that little girl should be singing, “All I need for Christmas is my two front teeth.”

SongsOfAnnieMosesTwo front teeth: One could live without them, I mused. And assessing needs and wants can be tricky. My sister, Sherry, had performed that song when we were children, standing on the stage of a small, secluded mountain church where our family ministered as missionaries. She had smiled to show off the gap in her teeth, and the congregation had smiled back, showing the gaps in their teeth too. They were horribly poor, most of them. We couldn’t give them teeth, but we could give them smiles.

The annual Christmas Eve party always shifted our family into high gear in preparation for a jam-packed service. We would decorate a scruffy tree—cut by a local logger—and surround it with brown paper bags filled with goodies. Daddy would drive to collect the gifts donated by supporting churches, and Mama would wrap and mark them.

Mama and Daddy had a list, and they checked it, not once, not twice, but many times. Every expected guest would have a gift tagged with his or her name. Unexpected guests would receive a gift from Mama’s sack of extras, marked according to age and gender: Adult-Male, Child-Female.
After the church party, Daddy would go into Santa mode, delivering gifts and groceries to shut-ins and those who were too embarrassed to come to church, often the poorest of the poor.

He knew to give the things they needed: food, medicine and such. But the thing that made his Ho-Ho-Ho laugh belly-deep and jolly was the privilege of giving something lovely, something lavish, something just-because, to those who had nothing.

One year, he ran out of gifts marked Adult-Female, so he took lonely old Miss Izzie the only thing left: a doll. As she unwrapped it, a look of wonder fell over her face and tears came. “How did you know?” she said, fingering the lace on the doll’s gown and bonnet. “As a young girl, I longed for a doll. But we were so poor. It’s perfect. A miracle.”

As my friend and I strolled through the opulent department store, I thought of the relationship between want and need.
I had asked many times, “What do you want for Christmas?” I had never asked, “What do you need for Christmas?” Like Daddy, I enjoyed giving extraordinary gifts, items that the ones receiving would never have purchased themselves.

“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!” (Matt. 7:11 NIV)

Perhaps knowing how to give good gifts means being willing to fulfill a wish, a dream, or an unspoken longing. My experience bears witness to an intimate God who freely gives us all good things as He has freely given us His Son, not to a God who struggles between want and need. In Jesus, both our needs and our wants are met with great personal precision: as nuanced as the Christmas doll that a lonely old woman dreamed of receiving as a child.


  • 11/02/2013
    Ralph Mehrens said:

    In the fall of 1961 I rode the train every weekend to minister with your dad and mom in Oklahoma. I came alone because I didn’t have the money to bring my wife. Your dad and the church gave me a ticket so that my wife could come with me for Christmas weekend. Wonderful Christmas Gift.

  • 11/03/2013
    Shellyl Browne said:

    Isn’t it awesome that he loves us enough to give us what we want? This summer I helped a neighbor clean out a flooded basement — really a hoarding situation with all the fabric, yarn, clothes adn memories of her family. In a back corner she found a tiny red sewing machine that her father had bought her for Christmas when she was a girl. They were very poor with about 15 children in the family, yet this beautiful little machine set a course for her life in sewing for her family. She had become trapped in the weight of all those who had passed on — their clothing and fabric scraps — and for 20 years had not been able to let go or even work in her workrooms because they were floor to ceiling packed with bags of fabric she wanted to make memory quilts out of. Now, God brought this precious reminder of her father and mother’s sacrifice to the place of honor in her home. And she can once again sew and create in a clean, safe place.

  • 11/03/2013
    Carey Ann said:

    This article blessed my heart, Mrs. Wolaver! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us all! May God bless you & your family this holiday season!!!

  • 11/15/2013
    Nathan said:

    Mrs. …First time in along time where I see Gods Character portrayed in this way in reference to this Holiday season. A man made view has often stripped away the beauty and the Joy of giving.
    How many times does God Bless us above what we ask or think , and never is it due to merited favor this view of Gods Character is such a blessing to me …thanks for sharing. God Bless!!


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