I’m sure we can all recall a time as children when we dearly hoped for a specific Christmas gift. A particular one that we had taken time to circle in toy catalogs and told anyone who asked that we really wanted said item. Or, maybe even bribed a sibling or two into splitting the cost of the item should Christmas not yield that certain gift after all was said and done. As we got older maybe there were times where we found out before Christmas the item we were to receive; the anticipation and waiting was enough to make you want to tear a few hairs out of a nutcracker’s beard.
Likewise, you might have had a moment when, in jest, someone gave you a truly great gift but wrapped it in a gag box. One of my favorite memories of this nature was when my family drew my cousin’s name for the annual Christmas gift exchange. We knew he really hoped to receive a certain PlayStation video game that had just come out. We actually purchased a gag box to place the gift in entitled “Extreme Chores.” A mock, but surprisingly realistic looking video game box detailed all the different features within the fake game. These features included leaf raking races, dish washing relays, etc. All in all, not exactly the gift he had been hoping for. Watching his reaction was priceless! It even made him opening the box to see his real gift inside that much more exciting for all of us.
What a fun concept: wrapping a truly desired and valuable gift in unexpected boxes or with discount wrapping paper. Throwing off the scent of the gift receiver, so to speak. In a larger and much more meaningful sense, this is very similar to how Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, the greatest gift ever given, was presented first to earth. The God-man Himself originated from the most humble of parents, belonging to one of the most poverty stricken towns in Judea, and was born in a dirty, lowly barn filled with the stench of farm animals. Not entirely the dramatic entrance the Jews expected of the gift of the Messiah for whom they had been waiting hundreds of years. This Messiah, as many prophets had foretold, would come as a warrior king to save them from their oppression and transgression (which they thought was the Roman Empire at the time). They were expecting a conqueror in gold leaf wrapping paper. Instead the Lord sent down His precious Son as a seemingly illegitimate baby essentially in a ratty cardboard box. Have you ever wondered what He meant by doing this for all the world to see?
Every step of Jesus’ divinely orchestrated 33 years on earth was revealing truly precious gifts to mankind in the most unlikely of boxes and wrapping paper. This is why the Jews were so perplexed and their hearts initially hardened to the image of the real Messiah in front of them, who they didn’t want to accept at face value. This is also what Paul later talked about in Romans as being the “mystery” of the gospel which was hidden for a time; that Jesus had not only come for the Jews but for ALL who would put their trust in and believe on Him; that He died on the cross for their sins and rose again three days later defeating death. This principle was also emphasized in His ministry to those whom the religious leaders and Pharisees of the time most definitely deemed unworthy of receiving the best gift that only Christ had a right to give: that of forgiveness for sins. All throughout the gospels we see Jesus often offered His time, compassion, and ministry to the “least” of the world. Beggars, cripples, prostitutes, tax collectors, and “lowly” individuals even at the very first moments He arrived on earth were given a place of honor to receive what Christ offered freely.
Have you ever considered the very first people invited to share in rejoicing at His coming to earth? The Lord sent His heavenly host of mighty angels to notify a group of lowly shepherds just outside the town. The angel invited them to come see the gift which was foretold and was now a reality. They immediately rushed to see the Messiah in the city of David, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. Can you imagine what that must have been like for them to see? The highest of Kings in the most lowly of places. I can’t help but consider this would have made Jesus that much more approachable to the very people He had been sent to save. We, just as the believers of old, can know this is true by taking comfort in this promise:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16
This Christmas, as you take time to reflect and enjoy sweet moments with your friends and family, always remember to celebrate the greatest gift ever given. Jesus, who was wrapped in the most unlikely of paper and who is addressed to everyone no matter their status or where they come from. That is the wonderful mystery of this gift that has been made known!
When you pass by the homeless man on your street corner, take a lesson from the angels to proclaim rejoicing at His coming two thousand years ago. Heed the example of the Shepherds, and eagerly rejoice in anticipation of His second coming drawing ever closer. And finally, if you have not yet received the gift extended to you by the Lord, take an opportunity this Christmas to at last accept what Christ has already done for you. Jesus came as a humble baby, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for a penalty that we deserved to pay, and rose again conquering death on our behalf so that through belief in Him, we too will join Him in heaven one day, once again in right relationship with our Heavenly Father and Creator. This Christmas, above all other gifts, remember and rejoice in the One that matters most.