The Starbucks coffee cup reads,
We invite you to listen to your desires and to renew your hope. To see the world not as it is, but as it could be. Go ahead. Wish. It’s what makes the holidays the holidays.
Wishing, it says, is “what makes the holidays the holidays.” Try not to see reality, the world as it is. Wish for something else. That’s what the celebration is all about.
Doesn’t that seem sad to you? It does to me. Not bad, not evil, but sad. How does wishing help us to renew hope? Maybe by allowing us to imagine that things don’t have to be this way. Great reforms have been led by men and women who have said, “this is not good, and it can be changed.” These are dreamers, though—not wishers. They live their lives in pursuit of fulfilling those dreams. Wishes are passive. Without a wish-granter, like some lucky leprechaun or fairy godmother, they are poignant reminders that things are not as we would like them to be. Beyond that they do nothing.
But wishing is a child-like thing to do, and Christmas, they say, is for the children, so I suppose that’s why the coffee cup speaks of wishes. Maybe it’s intended to remind us of our wishes and hopes of childhood, before we saw the world as it was, or when we saw it for what it was but hadn’t learned yet that wishes by themselves do nothing. Except for this: when we were children, some of us discovered that expressing our wishes toward our parents resulted in our wishes coming true on Christmas morning. Parents can be wish-granters. If the wish-granter parent is wise, he or she will know when it is best to grant the wish and when it is best not to. And then if that parent has the resources to match the good wishes, children often do find their wishes come true.
Many of us experienced this kind of thing as children. Many of us wish we did. All of us would rather see the world as it could be than as it is, because regardless of where we came from, all of us have been disappointed with the way the world is.
Some have said Christianity is about believing in a magical wish-granter. Let us ignore (this time at least) the impact of such loaded language and simply ask, suppose someone has a wish and directs it toward God: is there someone there listening, or is God as unreal as the leprechaun? Could he actually be a wish-granter, in the same way the wise parent can be at Christmas? Is that such an outlandish thought?
Hope must have a real basis, or else it is empty wishing indeed. Israel’s hope for a Messiah was based on centuries of relationship with God, and on his promises. Celebration ought to involve something more than closing our eyes to reality: there ought to be something truly good and joyful to celebrate together. What has made the “holidays” the “holidays” for millions of people for many years has been that the “holidays” included Christmas, celebrating the fulfillment of Israel’s hope, and Christ as the basis for our own renewed hope.
My sadness is for those whose holidays are about what the coffee cup says they are: wishing the world was different. It is a cup that tastes of disappointments and empty hopes. In reality the holiday of Christmas is about God making the world different, full, and bright. It’s about hopes fulfilled and disappointments turned into joy.
My wish for you—my prayer to the really existing God for you—is that you will taste the reality of celebration. God has come to renew our hope, to begin to make the world what it really can be, even to make us what we really can be. And to show how great he is in doing so!
Don’t just “Go ahead. Wish.” Celebrate!