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  • Writer's picturePastor Nathan Lipscomb

What Does God Want for Christmas?

I know this might sound like a silly question, but as we enter into the most celebrated holiday season of the year, wouldn't God desire something from His children even during this time of year? I feel like it was far easier to figure out what I wanted for Christmas when I was a kid than it is now. Not to mention, my desires were much less expensive then, too. Each year, I need to put together a Christmas wish list for my wife's family's gift exchange. As usual, I procrastinate and finally sit down and can't think of a single thing that I want. Oh, there's the big expensive things that wouldn't suit this kind of list; there's the ideological things like health and good children's behavior that no one can buy me. There's no perfect gift that would fulfill all my desires and needs. God doesn't need any trifle that we can offer Him for satisfaction or fulfillment. In Psalm 50, the writer, Asaph, answers the question for Israel of what God does want from them. Of course, he can't just come out with a simple answer quickly. That probably wouldn't work anyway. We need to travel a pathway of logic and remembrance first. I would encourage you to have Psalm 50 open as you read this for reference. Asaph builds up to his answer first by making known that...

1. God Is a Holy and Just God (v. 1-7)

Verse 1 begins with a majestic gathering of powerful names, almost as if a herald were announcing them: "the mighty God"- Elohim, and "LORD"- Yaweh. These names are meant to perk up the ears of the listener. God, the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, the God of creation has something to say! He goes on to point out God's purity and holiness, and therefore must point out that God must judge fairly His people ("my saints") and all mankind. God's attitude toward sin is described in verse three. We are told in Romans that all men are sinners, and God must judge sin.

While things sound grim at this point for Israel, listen to verse seven, "Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God." God is still identifying this people with himself. They are His peculiar treasure. Asaph isn't just writing a message of impending judgement, but a warning from a loving Father to His dear children to refocus them on eternal matters of consequence! Where had their focus gone wrong? To put it simply, they had become worldly. Worldly in who they married, worldly in their worship, worldly in most every way. They had gotten a taste of the culture around them, and desired it more than they desired a right relationship with God. They kept up religious tradition, but that's all it was to them, tradition, ritualism, and Asaph was about to remind them that...

2. He Has No Taste for Mere Ritualism (v. 8-13)

Had they continued to go to the temple and offer sacrifices? Yes. Had they continued to observe the feasts? Yes. Did they still speak of Jehovah God? Sure, but were they worshipping and serving God or themselves? Was it to God the Father that they were offering sacrifices, or to the religious traditions of their fathers? They had become ritualistic in their worship, and because of their ritual keeping, they felt that their sin could be excused. "Surely, Jehovah wouldn't punish me for offering meat to my wife's idol right after I brought my sacrifice to His temple, right?" When we feel that God is displeased with us, why do we check to see if we have kept our rituals (church attendance, tithing, etc.) instead of checking our relationship? Picture this, you walk in your front door and your wife is standing there with her hands on her hips and a mild scowl on her face. You sense she's about to ask you something and your mind races with possibilities, "Did I forget her birthday...or maybe this was our anniversary and I forgot the flowers?!" Immediately, we check to make sure we have kept up with the rituals of marriage, but maybe it is a problem with the relationship.

God speaks to Israel now and reminds them that He doesn't need their animals that they bring to sacrifice. He doesn't need the meat, nor does He need the blood. He says that If He was hungry, He wouldn't need to ask them because He already owns a whole world full of resources. "Israel, do you think I need your sacrifices, rituals, and worship? I don't need those things. I don't desire the obligations of religion. Your mere ritualism isn't earning you indulgences before me. You already had my favor, love, and provision." God doesn't need the fancy architecture, banners, music, incense, and fine linens. His own creation has done a far better job at showcasing His glory than man's best attempts. So...

3. What Does He Really Desire? (v. 14-15)

He wants a thankful heart, a life of obedience, and a continual trust in Him. Notice that these things don't hinge on the hearer's ability to keep them. God wanted to be seen in His provision and protection of Israel. He wanted His children to offer up gratitude for His hand of Providence. He desired for them to obey Him out of love rather than out of tradition or ritual. He desired that they lean solely upon Him in the "day of trouble" and all the time. On one hand, God isn't so interested in the pomp and show of religion, but on the other hand, He longs for us to reach out in the real, raw moments of our lives, the unscripted and unadorned times when we have prepared no pretense and have no answers to our dilemmas, but instead, we have a living trust in the mighty God, the LORD! To put it simply, He wants a real and lasting intimate relationship with you. Not one where we only talk during the good times or only during the bad. He wants to be involved in every day and every part.

Is God longing to punish you? Is He just waiting for the moment when He can drop the hammer? No, judgement is sure and it will come, but there's a reason why He offered up His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as the last blood sacrifice that anyone would ever need. There's a reason why He had it recorded in Scriptures and preserved for eternity. There's a reason why He has gone to so much trouble to warn and plead with us: because of His love for us that is so immeasurable that the only way that we can truly define it is to say that God is love.

What does God want for Christmas? Really, it's the same thing He wants year round. He doesn't want your religion, He wants your heart. Have you been saved? Are you sure you would go to Heaven when you die? If there is any doubt in your mind, or if you believe that your salvation has anything to do with your abilities, would you reach out to me so I can show you how to know for sure? I've also included a link if you would like to learn more:

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