Brown Paper Packages, tied up with strings

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is the gifts. Right away you might read that and assume that I’m taking a materially centered or hyper-spiritual track in this blog post. I’m not…though I like a big surprise a lot, and I could (and should) wax on and on about the non-material gifts of God in and among us daily, I’ve got something else in mind. I really love to give gifts…and this time of year makes it not only appropriate (many occasions to do so), but also exciting. Secular Christmas traditions include gift-giving, so it’s not weird and awkward to give people gifts.

The cost of my gift giving isn’t really so important as the thought behind it (or the time behind it, in the case of knitted things. There is no “whipping up” a handknit, in case you didn’t know). I am willing to spend more money on a gift, but it’s because it’s something that will be used/appreciated/enjoyed by the recipient. I tend to go for lasting more than quickly spent (sorry, family, no sky-diving tickets for you all!). It’s a tangible expression of the love I have for individuals and how much I think about them. It’s a family trait, I think.

Presentation is a weakness of mine, however. My 2012 New Years Resolution was unofficially “Learn how to wrap gifts”, which actually translates to (which is why it’s unofficial, because who wants to admit this): “be willing to spend money on gift-wrapping supplies”. I resist spending a lot of time and money on the packaging because it won’t be remembered for that. Whatever it is inside lasts more than the shredded paper or the smooshed bow will. My reason for giving gifts is the gift, not the disposable packaging…

Anyway, it got me to thinking about one of my most humbly wrapped packages. I tend to bring the White Elephant gifts in the worst wrapping. Not the worst wrapping in the biggest, gaudiest bag that I could scrounge up, but wrapping paper and maybe a bow…one of those cheap 100/$3 bows. One particular ornament exchange I brought the only gift wrapped in paper (the rest were in bags) and discovered, to my horror, that the design of the evening was to really impress other people with store-bought, fancy ornaments in store-bought, fancy bags. My hand-knit mouse, which had taken hours to make and lots of excitement and anticipation as I imagined someone opening and cherishing it, in its humble red wrapping paper (no box because I didn’t have a box that small) was way out of place. In fact, so out of place that it was chosen last to be unwrapped. I was the second-to-last person to open a gift that night, and my choice was to “steal” someone else’s present, lest I unwrap my own gift. The last person to steal or open chose the ornament I had chosen and I was given the last package. Humbly wrapped.

I contained my humiliation about bringing the least desirable present and then receiving it (without a word of who it was from) until one well-intentioned woman getting to know me asked to see it and announced that she believed it was hand-made. “Who made this?” I pretty much died on the spot, admitted I had made it and fought tears in a room of women I didn’t really know. The mouse is one of few ornaments that I have on my tree in my apartment and reminds me of that story, as well as causes me to reflect on the way I receive gifts…that can be a blessing to the giver as well.

Jesus came to earth in humble “packaging”. The Father’s gift giving wasn’t an impulsive decision like a snow globe from the department store on the way home from the mall. It was planned and prepared for years and years and years. Since before creation.

he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
he was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:2-3

The Jews were waiting for a perfectly wrapped gift (messiah). They rejected Jesus based on the way He came — meek, humble, challenging, actually righteous. His greatest qualities weren’t shiny and flashy, but instead his communion with the Father, perfect submission, perfect love.

And his gift wasn’t just for a season –to end oppression of Israel and let them carry on as before but as empowered, invincible children of God. His gift, in defeating death and conquering sin once and for all was timeless, worth remembering and cherishing and sharing for eternity. Available to all, ready to be received.

…but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Romans 6:23b

Whether or not you are a person who loves giving gifts, receiving gifts, or even Christmas time at all, consider that the humbly “wrapped” gift of God – the Son of God in human form – was given that all might come to know God and have relationship with Him. That’s worth receiving with great JOY and highest PRAISE!

Happy Advent!

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