Watching my boys rip off bows and shred paper Christmas morning makes me wonder why I bother staying up late to wrap their presents. My husband thinks we should just stick a bow on the Wal-mart bag and be done with it. I suppose it would be less messy and more environmentally responsible if I just bought gift bags at the dollar store like I do for birthdays, but it just seems more, well, Christmas-y to tear through noisy paper . Besides I have a thing for ribbon, and there’s not much you can do with ribbons and gift bags.
But why do we wrap presents at all? Why don’t we just hand over the goods and save ourselves the bother of both the wrapping and the inevitable clean up? I think it has to do with the element of surprise. We know we’re getting a present, but the wrapping paper keeps us guessing about the details. Some of us, though, and you know who you are, don’t like surprises. We want to know exactly what we’re getting, how much it cost, and whether it will go on sale after Christmas. Many of us have lost our childlike delight in the unknown; we like things to be predictable.
This is supposed to be the season of joy, but joy is not predictable like the traffic snarls that accompany snowfall in Calgary. Instead joy seems to catch us off guard. Think of Elizabeth who exclaimed in surprise, when the baby inside her “leapt for joy” at the arrival of Mary (Luke 1:44). They were welcoming a scandalously unwed pregnant girl, but both Elizabeth and the soon-to-be-born John the Baptist experienced unrestrained joy. Or consider the tired shepherds who were startled by an angel proclaiming “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10); once they got over their fright, they had the energy to run all the way back to Bethlehem to find the baby lying in a manger!
What do both of these events have in common? Joy broke out when Jesus arrived… even before He was born! Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, joy is connected to the presence of God. This is why Christmas is all about joy; it is about Emmanuel, God with us. So, if you are not feeling very joyful this Christmas, this is good news because you do not need to add it to your holiday ‘to do’ list. In fact, the Bible never tells us to seek joy (I checked just to make sure!) but it does advise us to seek God. Joy comes, surprisingly, unexpectedly, when we become aware of the presence of the God who is here with us. Our job is to be open to the surprises that God brings our way. If we are willing to focus on how God is at work in our lives rather than trying to make everything smooth and predictable, we may discover that joy springing up from the most unlikely looking packages. Surprise!
Activity Gifts are a significant part of Christmas. Gifts can bring us joy, but hopefully they also fill us a spirit of thankfulness. This Advent, let’s take the time to reflect on the gifts God has showered us with this year; some of them may have come in pretty strange packaging. May those memories move us to praise as we remember God’s goodness to us. Glory to God in the highest!
Scripture Readings: Luke 1:39-44; Luke 2:8-20; Philippians 4:4,5; 1 Peter 1:8,9
Contributed by Kim Grant
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