We’ve all felt the itch at some point to shake a gift under the Christmas tree that has our name on it to see if we can guess what’s inside. Or even more to the point, consider those times you’ve been involved in one of those “Santa Exchange” games where you draw a number and pick a present. Isn’t it the case that, more times than not, when your number comes up, you go for the gift that is larger than the rest? Packaging exerts a pull on our heartstrings that is hard to ignore.
But the irony is that the Christmas story centers on a baby born in a feeding trough. A manger seems no place for the birth of a king. Yet it was precisely in that place God chose the Messiah to be born so that we who would gain from his birth are required to see the events surrounding the first Christmas from the standpoint of faith.
It reminds me of the story of a South African diamond miner who had come across one of the world’s largest diamond, one the size of a small lemon. The miner needed to get the precious find safely to the company’s office in London, so he sent it in a small steel box and hired four men to carry it. But when the package arrived at the company’s office and was carefully opened, it contained no diamond at all. It contained instead a lump of black coal. Three days later, the actual diamond arrived by ordinary parcel post in a plain package. The miner had assumed correctly that most people wouldn’t have paid any attention to an ordinary cardboard package.
God no doubt could have sent His Son into the world with great fanfare. But instead, every step in the story points to simplicity and holiness: the unassuming young mother, the angels in the field, an out of the way place called Bethlehem, a common manger. I could go on and on. The point is that God understood that no heart would be changed by the Christ Child’s birth without digging through the story’s stratified simplicity in order to discover something of immeasurable worth.
My hope is that you have made that faith journey in this special season of the year and found more than you ever expected to find. Only then will you walk through this Christmas season and into the New Year with eyes of faith, ready to embrace all God reveals to you and each and every blessing that will come to you as a result. Merry Christmas and a most Happy New Year!
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:9-12).