by Joanie Butman
Someone sent me this photo a couple of weeks ago commenting, “Bible Study is like the most beautiful CHRISTmas package I could open and the tag says ‘Merry CHRISTmas Susie! I am sending you all my Gifts in one package to share with others. I love you, God.’"
It was an excellent visual reminder of how we should be clinging to God’s gifts all year long. How blessed are we to have the option to wake each morning with the same excitement and anticipation as a child on Christmas morning. Still, we don’t always choose to open His gifts. Why is that I wonder? Ken Gire writes in The Reflective Life, “It’s a great loss that we awake to so many gifts on a given day, not only without opening them, but without knowing they are even there for us to open.”
Even though intellectually I understand God is sovereign and provides all that I need, I tend to become complacent and forget that truth too often. His presence/presents remain unacknowledged and unopened – maybe because I wasn’t looking for them, or perhaps they didn’t look or arrive in the manner I was expecting.
Children expect good gifts. They inherently believe they deserve them whether they’ve been naughty or nice. In fact, it doesn’t take them long to determine that despite the warnings from Santa (or mom and dad), he’s going to show up regardless of their behavior. Why? Because he’s good, and Christmas has more to do with his goodness than their behavior.
No wonder Christ exhorts us to be childlike in our faith. He wants us to be saturated with that same confidence. His heartfelt desire is that we begin each day not believing that we deserve anything from our Father, but expecting it nonetheless because of His goodness and His love for us – simply because He’s a good Father. As Chris Tomlin sings,
You're a Good, Good Father
It's who you are, it's who you are, it's who you are
And I'm loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am
More importantly, when we embrace how truly unworthy we are, the miracle of Christmas takes on new meaning. Christ came to take on our sinfulness so that we can stand before the Father and sing those words. Don’t be tempted to leave any of His gifts unwrapped because you don’t feel ‘good’ enough. You’ll be leaving the greatest gift of all time unopened. Our worthiness is Christ’s ultimate Christmas present because, through His arrival and sacrifice on our behalf, our naughty list has been erased.
One last thought. Even though we know God is a ‘Good, Good Father,’ one of the great paradoxes of life is that some of His greatest blessings arrive in unexpected packages – frequently wrapped in pain. They are not the ones instinctively reached for given the choice – just the opposite. Charles Stanley eloquently explains that “one of the beautiful lessons we can draw from Christmas is that God often uses the very difficulties we experience in order to achieve His truly wonderful objectives.”
He did it with Jesus, Mary and Joseph so why would we expect anything different? There was nothing ‘easy’ about Christ’s life beginning with his birth in a dirty stable. Yet everything He (and Mary and Joseph) experienced was part of God’s perfect plan of salvation. The long awaited Messiah arrived in an unexpected way – not wrapped in the glory many anticipated but in ragged cloths. He still arrives in our lives in much the same way - wrapped in adversity. Some of our greatest blessings are born out of suffering, because hardships draw us closer to God as we lean into His presence and provision.
My Christmas prayer for you is that you choose to be open to God’s gifts in whatever form they take and that you choose to share them with others. God’s presence/presents are always meant to be regifted. It’s how He reveals Himself to the world.