As is probably true with most married couples, my wife and I are very different. Our differences show up in all areas of life - from what sort of movies we like, to how we tell stories, to what we like on our pizza. One of the areas where this difference is obvious is gift wrapping. My wife goes to great lengths to wrap a gift, beginning by making sure the paper is appropriate for the occasion. From there, she moves on to make sure an attractive ribbon surrounds the gift. Finally, it's all topped off with tying a beautiful bow. In other words, she puts a lot of thought into it. I, on the other hand, put very little thought into wrapping the gifts I give. Actually, if you get a gift from me, you're lucky if it doesn't show up in the bag the store gave me when I purchased it.
I've been thinking about this difference a lot this week, mostly because Christmas is next week and I have gifts to wrap. But it's also been on my mind because Christmas is all about God's gift to us. At first, I thought that perhaps God was on my side on this one, as the gift He gave to us came in very simple wrapping. But as I've pondered it, I've come to see that there was a lot more thought put into it than Jesus simply being dropped off in "swaddling cloth”.
First of all, when God decided to send His Son to this earth, He chose a time in history when there was an expansive empire ruling over most of the civilized world. This is significant in that this empire established a single language for everyone to use, and they built an extensive road system that allowed for safe travel. Both of these factors allowed for the Gospel message to spread quickly throughout the known world.
But it wasn't just the time period that God was thinking about, because He also was intentional about the parents Jesus would have. The couple He chose were working class people from a small, insignificant town. But by choosing people from humble circumstances, God made sure that Jesus was accessible to the people He had come to save. He was a king, but He was a king born in a small town to everyday parents, making Him a King everyone could approach.
These are just a couple of the many ways we can see that God had a very specific plan when He sent us the gift of His Son. But unfortunately, most of the people who were around when Jesus was born completely missed the event because they weren't looking for God's plan. And it's not because they were necessarily bad people, they were just so focused on their own plans that they couldn't see God's. And unfortunately, that's a mistake that many of us continue to make - especially during a busy time of year like Christmas.
So today, let's ask God to help us slow down and look for His plan for our holiday. Maybe He wants us to reach out to a neighbor, or help someone with a financial need, or invite a co-worker to church. Whatever it is, let's ask God to show His plan to us, and then help us be obedient to follow. Let's not be so focused on the gifts and "wrappings" of Christmas that we miss out on what God's trying to do.