As the month of December descends upon us, it can be easy to turn our focus to the holiday frenzy of:
Decorations – should they go up before Thanksgiving or after?
Shopping – online or in the store?
Plans – what are the plans this year? Who will we visit? How do we split up our time?
Baking – how much baking will we do? What, and whom, are we baking for?
Traditions – do we adhere to the old ones or are we going to be flexible with new?
Finances – how do you shop wisely and not go into debt? Where are the best deals? Do I care about the best deals?
Gifts – who is on the list? Should they be on the list? What do they need? What do they want?
Years ago, after reading The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I realized one of my top love languages is gifts. Anyone with this love language can tell you—it is hard to control during the Christmas season! I enjoy everything about gifts. The thought and search that goes into finding just the right one, the purchase, and then hiding it from sight, the wrapping, and then the anticipation for the moment the gift will be released and received. Joy! Complete joy!
I read a study recently that explored the gift exchange. The study found that recipients respond better to wrapped or concealed gifts, and rate them higher than gifts just in a bag. There is joy and anticipation for both the giver and the receiver when hiding the identity of the gift until just the right moment. After I read the study my thoughts turned to the birth of Jesus. I began to wonder about the anticipation God held in His heart as time drew closer to the moment when the Angel would announce to the shepherds,
“Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David” (Luke 2:11, NLT)!
What a Gift He gave to all of mankind that night. And guess what? God wrapped His Gift, too. The Angel said the sign to identify Jesus to the shepherds would be the, “Baby wrapped in [swaddling] cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12, AMP). They would know they’d found Jesus when they found the One wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. That’s like going to the airport to pick up someone you’ve never met, and being told to look for the person wrapped in a blue coat waiting at the JetBlue terminal. There is an identifying element to them. How will I recognize them? By what they are wrapped in.
God gave His very best Gift when He wrapped up His Son, Jesus, that night and placed Him in a manger. How will the world recognize a Jesus follower? By what they are wrapped in. Those around us will recognize Jesus through the wrapping of compassion, patience, and hope. But, that’s not all. Jesus said: We are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13), the Light of the World (Matthew 5:14) and that everyone would know we were His disciples if we had unselfish love for one another (John 13:35). Salt makes people thirsty, Light helps people see in the darkness, and love softens the hard heart. I can become so wrapped up in selfishness, that when I view life through my corrupted filter it makes it nearly impossible for anyone to see Jesus through me. Why?
Perhaps because He’s hard to see when:
We choose to wrap up in sarcasm rather than grace after the sting of an unkind word.
We allow anxiety in tough circumstances to force peace far from us; worry to steal hope.
We nurture a heart of bitterness instead of gratitude.
We wrap ourselves in depression, and forget the joy of the Lord is our strength.
We wrap up in callousness rather than compassion.
There’s no salt, light or love to be found when we become wrapped up in our own pain. Pain hinders our ability to hear God and receive what He has to say on the issues we face. As painful as our circumstance may be, we can fear moving out from the pain holding us hostage. While remaining the same incites discomfort, the pain of change can also be terrifying. It’s easy to dread the unknown. Sometimes there’s security in our habits—even bad ones. Once we become stuck in a cycle of pain we must force ourselves to allow God to show us the way out.
Chrissy experienced the truth of this one morning when she went for a walk in the woods searching for greens and berries to use in a basket for the Holiday season. Upon the discovery of the perfect bush, she began to reach in, and cut the best berries. Once she had what she needed and began to move to leave, she realized she had gotten herself caught up in the middle of the bush. Surrounded by thorns, she felt the pain of each one as she tried to remove herself from the bush as they pressed into her. But she also realized she could not stay there. She had to endure the pain the thorns would cause her as she moved to become free of the bush.
She achieved freedom with a few scratches, and for those who are suffering the pain of illness, there will be discomfort as you allow for healing. For those accustomed to being wrapped in the chains of anger, fear, jealousy, hate and hopelessness, it’s going to be a battle to find freedom. Those thorns press in hard. But, the best news is that Jesus overcame every fleshly thorn, so we could wrap up in the berries within the bush of “love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22, AMP).
One of the most recognized slogans in advertising is, When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best, created by Hallmark. God cared enough to send His Very Best – His Son. Now He is releasing the gift of a New Year to us, but before we can receive what He has waiting in 2019, we must release what is behind us in 2018.
Let’s care enough to send our very best into this New Year by Activ8ingHer courage. It’s time to unwrap from every thought, attitude, and mindset that hinders you from receiving the very best of Jesus. Unwrap from the thorns of shame and sorrow so others recognize the Gift of Jesus living inside of you, and be the very best version of who God intended for you to be.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
Kolleen (and Chrissy)