“I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:21-24 ESV
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Revelation 19:6-9 ESV
Celebrations and festivals are usually wonderful times that everyone looks forward to. There are good things to eat and times with family and friends. But sometimes a celebration becomes empty, because everyone forgets the reason for the festival. This happens a lot at Christmas. There are parties, and decorating, and baking, and dinners, and presents, and singing, and Santa Claus, and so many things, that people forget that Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus. When people forget Jesus, the celebration of his birth becomes empty and doesn’t honor God at all. God has no reason to be pleased when he is left out of a celebration.
The people of Israel were having all their celebrations and festivals, and even times of gathering in God’s Name, without really thinking about the Lord and following his ways. They were offering God the sacrifices he required without giving him their lives and hearts first. They were living in ways that didn’t honor him, and especially in not caring for the poor and giving them justice. The Lord spoke some harsh words through the prophet Amos. He said that he hated their festivals and celebrations, and that their sacrifices didn’t mean anything to him. He wanted them to stop singing their songs of celebration and instead to live in the right ways of justice and love.
We can never completely follow God’s ways and earn his pleasure with what we do for him, and that leaves us in trouble. But God sent Jesus to us that first Christmas so that he could bring us back to God. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, and we are forgiven and free before God. Any good things we do to help others and to follow God’s laws, and any times that we celebrate in God’s Name, we do because of the love God gave us first. Because of his love for us, someday we will be brought into God’s heavenly kingdom. The Bible sometimes pictures this as a very happy wedding celebration and feast, and it’s a party that will last forever.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your love for us. Help us to live and celebrate in ways that honor you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.