As the holidays approach, the Santa displays start going up at the malls, and soon we’ll be seeing long lines as children wait their turn to sit in the jolly old elf’s generous lap to tell him what they most want for Christmas. In our way, most of us do this, whether we’re clicking Wish List buttons on amazon, or answering our parents or siblings’ inquiries, “So, what do you want for Christmas?” At the same time, we’re wracking our brains to come up with good gifts for the people we love most—and having an especially difficult time with some.
In the midst of all of this—what you might call the annual holiday flurry—I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone ask, “What does God want most?” After all, Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus, specifically about his birth. Why did he come here? People rarely travel for no reason, after all, and if you live elsewhere, a trip to earth isn’t something that you undertake lightly.
The classic (read Calvinist) answer to the question is “Jesus came so that he could die to save sinners,” which makes even me shudder, and I’m a pastor. I don’t think Jesus came intending to die. I think the Francisicans have a much cleaner, less complicated—and therefore, much more likely—notion of why Jesus came: Because God wants, more than anything else, to be close to us.
I think having a God “out there” isn’t actually very satisfying—for human or for God. We need a God who is with us, among us, in the midst of us. And I think that what God most desires, more than anything else, is intimacy. Intimacy with us. Intimacy with you.
You might think that’s scary, but I think it’s loneliness that’s really scary—maybe even for God. So this Christmas season, as you’re wrapping gifts, consider what you might get for God, keeping in mind what God wants most—you. In the words of my favorite Christmas carol,
“What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him, give my heart.”
Merry Christmas everyone. And please come and celebrate with us, if you can!
Our service of Christmas Carols & the Christmas Story is December 18 at 7pm, and our Sunday Christmas celebration is December 29 at 5pm.
—Pastor John Mabry
Thanksgiving Day 2013