I have a confession to make. I sometimes confuse what I want, with what I need. Anyone else? Anyone? Yeah. I suspect that I am not alone in that.
- Do I want the newest version of the iPhone? Or do I need the newest version of the iPhone? Ok. It’s a clearly a want.
- Do I want that new guitar, the one with the beautiful sound? Or do I need that new guitar? Ok. It’s a want.
- Do I want that bowl of ice cream at night while we are watching TV, or do I need that bowl of ice cream? Hmmmm…I’m going to have to get back to you on that one.
But you get the idea. Wants versus needs. Desires versus necessities. We all struggle with these things, don’t we?
If you do indeed find yourself included in this category of people, then I want you to know that you are in good company.
Our story from 2nd Samuel tonight is all about this.
David is the new King. He has just settled into his throne, and he comes to a realization: The Ark of the Covenant, the container that holds the 10 Commandments (Remember the movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark?”) it is the holiest of holies for the Jewish people. It is basically, they believe, where God lives. And David comes to this realization. He is living in a house made of cedar. It was a home fit for a king. But the Ark of the Covenant? It was sitting outside. It was being kept in a tent.
David says to his friend, the prophet Nathan, “this isn’t ok. I can’t be in this beautiful place while we keep the Lord out in a tent. We need to build a dwelling place for the Lord. We need to honor God, to build him a magnificent house…a temple!”
But that night in a dream, God speaks to Nathan and says “Tell David that I don’t need a house. For all these years that the Jewish people were wandering in exile, hungry, tired and scared, I was walking alongside them. I don’t need you to build me a house. Instead, I need to be the one doing the building.
I need to build the people up…I need to raise up a nation for my chosen people. I need to build up a dynasty, beginning with you David, through a line of descendants that will stretch thousands of years, all the way to the Messiah. David, when did I ever ask for a temple from you? I don’t need one because I go where you go. Because I am with you.”
God was saying, “David, you’re confusing your want, with your need. You don’t need to build a giant temple. You need to recognize that I am with you wherever you go.”
In fact, no human act could ever make God be closer to God’s people. God is close to God’s people because that is what God chooses to do! God was going to be the one to deepen the relationship: and ultimately, God was going to become present in human flesh as Jesus Christ. And through David and his line of descendants, God was already at work.
David’s want, his desire to build something to honor God was just that…a want. It was not a need.
As we step together deeper into this Advent season towards Christmas, I am feeling kind of like David. I have a lot of wants:
- I want the Christmas that I am used to.
- I want a Christmas full of joy, with no pandemic in sight.
- I want a house full of family and friends. No Social distancing or masks.
- I want to host the Trinity staff Christmas party on Sunday at our home, instead of on Zoom.
- On Christmas Eve, I want a church full of people…six different times!
These are things that I want. And that’s not a bad thing. But to be honest, if this year I focus on these wants, I’m setting myself up for disappointment.
I think that maybe…just maybe…this year we are being pointed in a different direction. Perhaps we are being reminded that this may be the year to let go of some of our Christmas wants, and to remember instead that God knows our needs, and that we can trust in God’s promise to be with us, and to provide for our needs.
Maybe this is the year for us to focus not on what we do at Christmas, but rather on what God does.
Maybe this is the year to let go of feeling badly because you’re not hosting enough, or baking enough, or decorating enough, or feeling the jolly enough, and to remember that God is our host; that God provides. Maybe that’s what we need.
God’s promise to David is the same promise God makes to you: I will walk with you. I will be present with you. I will come in human form, to live as you live, to experience joy and sorrow, and to bring you hope in the resurrection.
Maybe this is the year…no…this is especially the year, for us to remember what we need: God with us. Emmanuel. We need Jesus. This year, let our Advent prayer, simply be “come Lord Jesus be our Guest…”. It’s what we need.
Thanks be to God!