Grown-Up Christmas List and Longing for the Second Advent

christmas list

As we age, Christmas can often lose its luster. The childhood Christmas mornings, when we woke up before the sun to get a peek down the stairs at what might be under the tree, have given way to the struggle of budgeting for presents, synching schedules, and making sure the Christmas dinner seating chart doesn’t result in some extra Christmas drama. For many parents and adults, the Christmas season itself is found wanting.

Asking Santa, parents, or other relatives for gifts brought joy to the Christmases of our childhood, but as adults we understand that the problems of life cannot be solved by a new bike or a stuffed animal. Our innocence has been broken slowly over time and through circumstances so that we now know suffering, pain, and brokenness. A gift might distract ourselves from the brokenness of the world for a second, but we will be snapped back into reality by another ping from our newsfeed. From this place of disillusionment with Christmas comes the popular Christmas hit “Grown Up Christmas List[1].”

How does grown-up Christmas look different from childhood Christmas? Kelly Clarkson’s song reminds us of three fundamental truths about what adulthood has done to our Christmas experience.

Adult Christmas moves from a focus on the self to a focus on others.

The song reminds us that the adult Christmas list is “not for myself, but for a world in need.” For parents, bringing kids into the world immediately shifts the focus of Christmas from self to the kids, but even before then, maturing children begin to see that new toys in the toybox don’t satisfy for long. At the heart of the Incarnation, which we as Christians celebrate at Christmas, Jesus comes as a perfect God into a world in need as a “light into the darkness” (John 1:8). When we help our teenagers to embrace the shift from a self-focused Christmas to a Christmas giving to others, we begin to embody the mission of Jesus to give ourselves for a world in need.

Adult Christmas also moves us from a focus on the material to a focus on relationships.

The song proclaims: But Heaven only knows, that packages and bows can never heal a hurting human soul.” The material gifts under a tree are not what matters most. Instead of spending money, we spend our lives caring for hurting human souls and focus our desires on having relationships with others more than material things. Throughout all of Jesus’ ministry, we see Him taking time to not miss the human soul. Ultimately, Jesus came to redeem us by rescuing us from the power of sin and death at the cross and restoring our relationship with God.

The rescue of Jesus is a gift that we should be sharing with our kids. It is the longing of our souls and the sure foundation for our hope. In his first advent, Jesus came to rescue us from sin, defeat death at the resurrection, and return to reign in heaven.

Adult Christmas leaves us longing for Christ most of all.

But just like childhood Christmas leaves us wanting, Jesus’ first coming is only the beginning of the story. Remembering the first Advent should leave us longing for the second, where Jesus will return to make all things new and we will experience the consummation of His kingdom. Throughout the song, the cries for this second advent resound:

“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, no
This is my grown-up Christmas list.”

These words filling the grown-up Christmas list echo so clearly the writings of John the Revelator as he paints a picture of the second advent:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Rev. 21:3-5a).

When we find disappointment in our celebrations of the first advent this year, may our hearts be drawn to Jesus’ second advent. The disillusionment that our kids begin to experience opens the door for a deeper teaching of the meaning of the season. We may end up realizing that adult Christmas gives us the longing that Advent was meant to bring, stirring a deep cry within our spirits on behalf of a broken world: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

For favorite hymns, songs, and carols from the Rooted staff and steering committees, check out the Rooted Christmas Spotify playlist. Merry Christmas!

[1] I am using the lyrics from Kelly Clarkson’s version of the song.

Ben Birdsong is a church and para-church student ministry veteran and currently serves as the Minister of Missions at Christ Church in Birmingham, Alabama. He is also an adjunct professor teaching children, youth, and family ministries at Birmingham Theological Seminary. Ben also helps churches with custom curriculum through Your Youth Ministry Curriculum and authors with book projects through Birdsong Innovations. Ben has bachelor’s degrees in Marketing and Human Resource Management from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a Master of Divinity degree from Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, and a Doctor of Ministry in Ministry to Emerging Generations from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. As an author, Ben has written the devotional books Words from the Cross: 7 Statements that Will Transform Your Life, journeying through Jesus’ final moments before His death, and James: Everyday Faith. He is also a monthly contributor for parenting and family ministry content for Birmingham Christian Family magazine. Ben also wrote the John study and a portion of the Psalm study for Rooted Reservoir. Ben is married to Liz. He enjoys reading, writing, watching movies, and blogging at

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