It has become part of the holiday tradition, finding the perfect gift and then the perfect wrapping paper. Gift wrapping is an art to some, a science to others. Some spend as much time looking for just the right paper as they do the gift. Of course with paper comes the right coordinated ribbon, bows and for the really serious wrapper, silk flowers or other accessories. And when we present that gift with all it’s adornment we expect to hear how lovely the wrapping job is, almost as much as we want to receive appreciation for what’s inside.
I recall when the boys were much younger and even now with grandkids how the fun of watching them open our presents was temporarily sidetracked as they tore off the paper and played with it as if it were the present. Even our pets got a bigger thrill out of the paper than what the paper covered. In many ways this is us at Christmas time. We become so engaged in the “wrappings” of Christmas, the parties, the shopping, the decorating, the shows and concerts-all the traditions that surround the actual gift, the reason we stop and commemorate, that many of us discard the gift with the paper and completely miss out on the intended present, the Child born unto us.
When we read the accounts of the first Christmas in the books of Matthew and Luke many details are left out of the story. For instance, we don’t know for sure if Christ was born in a stable or a cave dwelling or a lower level of a home. We don’t know much about the shepherds. We aren’t exact on the date of His birth. We aren’t really told how many magi traveled to see Jesus or when they actually showed up. Hollywood producers have used artistic license to fill in the blanks for us to make movies more marketable and all of us have a sense of what the real scene may have been like, but the truth is these details were kept from us. Why? Because we get too caught up in the wrapping! We want to know things that have little significance in light of the real event and its purpose. Even within our worship we tend to seek approval for our church production or our operatic performance of Oh Holy Night when all the glory and attention is to be focused on the gift.
The first Christmas was incomprehensibly simple. In the beginning, Christ was. He created all that is created. We messed it up as we always do. We needed a perfect sacrifice in order to be reconciled to God the Father. Christ put off his glory, His Kingship and became flesh, His creation so that as a man he could die as a man once and for all. His coming was proclaimed as great tidings for ALL people. In one selfless act He became our King, our redeemer, our eternal bridegroom. God loved the world so much He gave us the perfect gift sans the trappings and distractions that would make us glory in the surroundings but lose sight of the gift. One Holy Night, one perfect sinless child, one act of unmatched love, one eternal hope. That is as simple as it can be if we would but accept it as it was intended.
In a world of hate and bigotry and finger pointing it would serve us all well to revisit Bethlehem and insert ourselves into the story as humble observers of a blessed event that would change mankind forever; to feel and see the love, to hear Heaven sing and to experience the forever healing and completion of our souls. Peace on earth, good will to all men, all ethnicities, all countries, all religions. I wish you the very best this Christmas season with a prayer that you will not miss the gift because of the wrappings, and that you will find it in your heart to carry this good will to all those you encounter in the coming year.