In 1953 Gayla Peevey warbled out "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas." In 1961 Alvin and the Chipmunks made the much more modest request that all they wanted for Christmas was two front teeth. In 1994 Mariah Carey shot for the moon, requesting an actual human being for Christmas.
Gift giving during special occasions has been going on for a very long time. At the first Purim, the one where all the Jews in the world could have been wiped out but instead experienced a heaven-sent turning of the tide, we read of the giving of gifts. Esther 9:22 says, "As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor."
At the original Christmas (which took place over a two-year period of time or more) we find the most famous example of gift giving. Matthew 2:11 says, "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold and frankincense and myrrh."
God is a giver of gifts. In Ephesians 4:8 we read, "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men."
And so, with the understanding that God is a giver of gifts, and that his people very normally give and receive gifts during special occasions, may I humbly present my rather eclectic Christmas wish list for 2018?
One: I wish for asylum for Asia Bibi. Asia is a young Christian woman who was on death row in Pakistan for eight years, having been charged with blasphemy under Islamic Sharia law. On Oct. 31, the Pakistani supreme court overturned that conviction. That led to riots and protests, even death threats against the three judges that set her free. Her lawyer has fled to the Netherlands in fear for his life, and there are reports that Islamic hardliners are seeking her from house to house with the intent to murder her. If she is not given asylum here soon, she will almost certainly be found and killed, just for being a Christian.
Two: I wish for a peaceful resolution to the NFL kneeling controversy. I would love for representatives of police officers and athletes and military personnel and politicians and mere fans of the game to meet together in private; no cameras, no photo-ops, no screaming activists, no preening sycophants — just calm conversation between adults that results in at least a tenable solution for everyone.
Three: I wish for every peddler of the heretical "prosperity gospel" to be compelled to spend a month living with impoverished and persecuted Christians in the Middle East. I suspect they would have much less stomach for their own snake oil after that.
Four: I wish that anyone who sits on the bench press bench in the gym, playing on his smartphone for half an hour while his bar plus a 25-pound weight on each side grows moss and people wait in anguish for him to move, would suddenly have the police rush in, taze him and haul him away for crimes against humanity.
Five: I wish for a "transport people from anywhere into the same room" button that I could push whenever I see people on social media, in the safety of their own homes, battling it out as if they are both the biggest and bravest warriors in the universe. I also wish for chips and salsa as I sit back and watch the fun of the "who can backtrack the fastest" contest.
Six: I wish that every homeless person we pick up each Sunday night and bring to our church to feed and love would do as a few of them have done: get saved, forsake any sinful paths that have led them to where they are, get back on their feet and turn around and help others to do the same.
Seven: I wish for my mother's seemingly omniscient ability to determine whether or not someone I was interested in dating was trouble. I have three kids of my own now nearing adulthood and can think of nothing that would be any handier.
Eight: I wish for abortion to be viewed by everyone as heinously as it actually is. I wish for people to detest it so thoroughly that, whether laws ever prohibit it or not, it is simply not done because people would never dream of destroying an innocent life in the womb.
And lastly, I wish that "The Far Side" and "Calvin and Hobbes" would come back.
Make fun of my list if you like, but I think it is infinitely better than two front teeth or a hippopotamus.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2know firstname.lastname@example.org.