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Thanksgiving is behind us. Now we turn our attention and preparation to the Christmas and New Year celebrations that are still ahead. We look forward to spending time with friends and family. We prepare to give thanks for our blessings. We’ll join the hustle and bustle of the crowds preparing to make presents for others or shopping for gifts, all the while hoping we’ll find something we really want under the tree. Great food, friends, family and gifts; all in all, it’s a pretty good time of year. Could it be that with all these distractions we don’t focus enough, or maybe overlook what’s really important?

It’s easy to forget that the true meaning of this holiday season isn’t in the apple dropping in New York. It’s not in the football games, Christmas classics, or the gifts under the tree. The true meaning of this holiday is found in the space between us, the world around us, and the sky above us. Is it possible that we’ve forgotten that this holiday is about relationships, not gifts? It’s more accurate to say that it’s about the celebration and thankfulness for the “One” true gift from above. We celebrate to “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

God doesn’t condemn; He sacrifices, not because He has to but because He loves us. When we first sinned in Eden, His instinct wasn’t to exact revenge for our disobedience. He didn’t turn His back on us; instead, He protected us (Genesis 3: 21). He showed us mercy and gave us grace. He sacrificed His most precious gift (John 3:16, TLV).”

Jesus is no ordinary gift, not just a chance for redemption, but a chance to enter into a relationship with God. We know that God doesn’t need anything from us (Acts 17:25) but He does want something from us. If you’re asking yourself, what does God want? I think the answer can be found in a Mariah Carey song, especially the chorus:

“I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don’t care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree

I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you.”

God wants us for His very own. He wants us to choose to be in a relationship with Him. Jesus described the two greatest commandments (Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:36–40; Mark 12:28–31) as the price of admission for this relationship. He said:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

I believe that the first commandment, sometimes described as surrender, accepts the reality that God wants all of us. But I don’t think that surrendering to God is a one-time event, rather it’s about making a daily choice, a continuous commitment to obedience. In fact, I believe the second commandment, to “love your neighbor as yourself,” is intended to be our first act of obedience. In What God Wants From Us, the author tells us “there are three things God wants to see in us: justice, kindness, and humility.  They all express what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. Justice is when you see someone mistreated, and you respond in love to rescue them. Kindness is when you see someone in need, and you respond in love to help them. Humility is when you see someone, and you focus on them and not yourself. All three traits—justice, kindness, and humility—reflect a heart of love.”

Let’s enjoy this season. It’s all right to enjoy friends and family, the food, the football games and everything else but let’s remember that it’s not about the gifts; it’s about the relationships. Let’s not forget that even if the gift you really wanted wasn’t under the tree; God offers us a gift, a relationship with Him.

To borrow a colloquialism, it’s time to “wrap this up and put a pretty bow on it.”   All God wants is “you,” not just for one day but forever. And He also wants us to reflect love (justice, kindness and humility) toward each other. Aren’t these gifts worth giving and receiving? I can’t answer you, but I’ll take them every day of the week.

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