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Wanting what we need at Christmas: Saul’s tragic lessons


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Scarlett Rose Ford - published on 12/13/23

Pilgrims to the Manger: Saul’s trust in the Lord allowed him and Israel to flourish, but when he turned his gaze toward himself, his kingship crumbled. Where are we setting our gaze this Advent?

When asked “What do you want for Christmas?” I recall all the Decembers of my childhood I spent sitting at the kitchen table with holiday catalogs, circling each Barbie doll I wanted before sending off my list to the North Pole. While this list has changed slightly over the years, the premise remains the same; Christmas is the time I ask for all the things I want but don’t need. 

Long before holiday Barbie catalogs, people have asked for unnecessary things. When the kingdoms of Judah and Israel united into one (Israel), the people of the nation begged the prophet Samuel for a king. Against Samuel’s warning, they cried, “We too must be like all the nations, with a king to rule us, lead us in warfare, and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:20). While God knew this was not what they needed, He gave them what they asked for: Saul.

Saul had all the characteristics of a king. He is described as being tall and handsome, from a powerful family of the tribe of Benjamin. After being anointed king, Saul trusted in the Lord’s plan for his kingdom, and he and Israel flourished. But the moment Saul began to waver in this trust and focus on what he wanted from his kingship, everything crumbled. His rule ultimately left the people of Israel with a deep desire: They wanted a new king. 

This longing continued king after king until the birth of the one true King a millennium later. As I learned from all the Barbies that Santa brought me as a kid, what we think we want may temporarily suffice, but no earthly gift can truly satisfy — only Jesus can. It is He who the Israelites needed then, and it is He who we need now. Amid holiday chaos, it’s especially important to mirror Saul’s gaze on God, not his gaze on himself; this is the key to making Christmas be about Who we need, not what we want.


[The Aleteia community is joining the journey of an Old Testament pilgrim each day this Advent, as they lead us to the Christ Child in this holy season. Find the daily reflections here.]

Pilgrims to the Manger
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