Monday, December 24, 2007


Today is Christmas Eve. It's been a great Christmas season so far. It's the only year I can remember teaching a series leading into Christmas, and because of that I've been thinking about Christmas a lot this year. One thing that has struck me the most in the Christmas story is the way in which it all happened. Let me explain.

You know how every mom loves to talk about how beautiful the package, the wrapping paper, or the bag is that holds the present? They are so careful when they open the package so as to not disturb the beautiful paper. I always wonder about that. I mean, sure it looks nice, but are you really going to reuse it or something? After all, it's not the paper that has value - it's the present inside. But I've been thinking about this concept in terms of the Christmas story. I mean, you can tell when someone has really taken their time to wrap a present. The way it is wrapped becomes part of what makes it so special - it displays the care and love that this person has that wrapped the present. So aside from the amazing fact that God became flesh and dwelt among us, and then eventually died and rose again (I realize that's a HUGE thing to set aside), I have been thinking a lot this year about the package. That is, the way in which this amazing gift was delivered. In one respect, God seems to have taken great care to communicate a certain message to us through the package - the part that many times we skip over - the way the gift was given. In another sense though, it's almost like God took this incredible gift and wrapped it up in toilet paper or newspaper or something. I mean if I was writing this story, I think I would have had a lot more bells and whistles surrounding the birth of the God-man Jesus. But instead, we have a story about a teenage pregnant girl, who when discovered to be pregnant is almost divorced and a family torn apart before it even gets a chance to start. Then, that same woman is forced to ride on a donkey miles and miles while almost ready to deliver. Eventually, when they get there she is forced to sleep with animals in a stable and to give birth to the King of Kings surrounded by animal poop, hay, and who knows what else. What an incredibly humbling, and maybe even lonely experience. So why is this the kind of wrapping paper that this amazing gift comes in?

I think it's because God is speaking to us in that wrap job. I think he's telling about the accessibility of this Savior to all people. He is telling of good news for the poor (Jesus' own message later on in life), and for the oppressed, the lonely, the helpless. This isn't just good news for the elite, the rich, the powerful - in fact this good news is for all. God is on the side of the poor. He always is. It's the reason that this good news was announced to shepherds, one of the lowliest jobs one could have. The fact that in many households there is a nativity set up with animals, hay, etc. is a constant reminder to us that God is not far - he isn't out of reach. He has come in the most accessible, most humble manner anyone could think of. And that fact makes the actual message and ministry of Jesus that much more powerful.

So anyway, don't be so quick to discard the paper for what's inside of this gift. Because I think that in this case anyway, the message that the wrapping gives us is just as important as the message that's inside. But when it comes to Christmas morning - go ahead and rip and tear.

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