God never rushes me through the process but tenderly asks me to allow Him to unwrap my defenses and give Him access to a new place in my soul.
Don’t you love the sight of beautifully wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree?
When my extended family gets together to celebrate the holiday, we each place the presents we have wrapped under the tree. Inevitably, we’ll see a variety of wrapping styles. Some glittering gift bags. A few lumpy packages wrapped in red or green tissue paper. A bunch of boxes covered in patterned paper with ubiquitous star-shaped bows. But some of the packages will make us all ooh and aah over the presentation and someone will say, “Shelly must have wrapped that!” You see, my sister Shelly has a special talent in wrapping gifts. Sometimes we don’t even want to open gifts from her. The elegant paper and elaborate bows make us hesitate to undo the packaging—yet we always do because we know that Shelly has also selected just the right gift.
How do you wrap gifts? Do you opt for the simplest way possible, like a cute gift bag with a quick tuft of tissue paper? Or do you go all out with fancy wrapping paper and ornate ribbons?
God's Extravagant Gift of Love
God's gift to us didn’t come in extravagant packaging. It arrived in the form of a tiny baby in the very simple wrappings of swaddling clothes. The ordinary outward appearance of a child born to poor parents camouflaged the great worth of the gift. But the familiar verse of John 3:16 tells us of the true value:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."
God gave us this gift out of His relentless love. I don’t know about you, but the more I care about a person, the more I want my gift to them to be just right. God loved us so much that He wanted to give us the perfect gift. Not simply a gift of a comfortable home, a nice life, or that air fryer on our wish list. He gave us something that would transform our lives right now and change our futures forever. He gave a gift that would fill our hearts with joy and peace. His present enables us to enjoy heaven with Him forever.
Even though God's gift wasn’t wrapped in glittering wrappings, it certainly is the most extravagant one ever. We often judge a gift by how much it costs. We may not act as excited about a present from the dollar store as we do about one from Tiffany's. God demonstrates His relentless love for us by giving the most extravagant gift He could lavish on us—the gift of His only Son. Although each one of us may have considered giving away our two-year-old when she threw a tantrum in Walmart, we would never actually part with our children. God's gift of salvation to us cost Him His own treasured and loved Son. That's how much He loves us.
Opening the Gift
When Jesus arrived that night in a messy stable in a tiny town, and his parents wrapped Him the best they could in a few strips of cloth, most of the world didn’t even notice. But that quiet night in Bethlehem became the first time the world could see and hold God's precious gift of a Savior. Now every Christmas we can open God's gift to us. Every December we can newly appreciate the gift given in love, the gift of inestimable value.
What are some practical ways we can open this precious gift to us?
1. Open God's Word
My mother has a bad reputation when it comes to unwrapping gifts. She simply can’t wait. When I was kid, sometimes my aunt would drop off a gift for me and my mother would steam open the package so she could see what was inside then carefully rewrap it before I came home from school. One of my mom’s friends knew of this tendency, so she would hand me the gift she had purchased for my mother and tell me to hide it until Christmas Eve. My mother’s impatience in opening gifts got her in trouble.
However, I think I need this kind of impatience when it comes to opening God’s gift to me in His Word. Scripture gives me a glimpse of God’s heart, so I’m asking God to help me rush to His Word—but then ponder it slowly. I want to take time this season to reread the Christmas story in Luke 2. To ask the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to something I may have missed. To read it as if for the first time.
2. Open Your Calendar
Unlike my mother, my father had great patience in opening gifts. When you handed him a package, he would pull out a small penknife from his pocket and meticulously slice through the tape and then gingerly unwrap the box so the paper could be used again. He never wanted to waste anything.
I usually rip open packages and throw away the wrappings. I tend to waste the paper. But I don’t want to squander time. Even in the middle of this busy season, I will try to open my calendar to Jesus. To set aside small pockets of time to sit and invite God into my tasks and celebrations. To read an Advent devotional. To journal how I see Jesus in these December days. To write thank-you notes to God.
3. Open Your Heart
When my kids were small, I sometimes extended the gift-opening process by wrapping a much-wanted item in a small box, then wrapping that box in a slightly larger box, then another box, and another. The process of opening layer upon layer of wrappings increased the anticipation.
When I give my heart to God, I find that His process of unwrapping it is much like that box-within-a-box present. He graciously takes the gift that I offer but may also gently show me where I am withholding part of my heart. The process of spiritual growth is a continual unwrapping of my stubbornness and self-absorption. God never rushes me through the process but tenderly asks me to allow Him to unwrap my defenses and give Him access to a new place in my soul.
This December as you hunt for the ideal gift for each person on your list, remember the most perfect gift of all—the gift of Jesus. As you try not to strain your Christmas budget, recall God’s extravagance toward you in giving you His only Son. And as you sit down with a pile of gifts along with colored paper and glittering bows, picture that most precious gift wrapped in a few strips of cloth.
God invites us to open this gift of a Savior every Christmas. So open His Word and allow His Spirit to speak to your heart. Open your calendar and invite Jesus into your celebrations. Open your heart and allow Christ to unwrap your resistance to His love.
All the gift-buying, gift-wrapping, and gift-opening of December can seem overwhelming. So let’s ask the Holy Spirit to realign our hearts with God's relentless love instead of the hurry-scurry of the season. Let’s offer our hearts to the One who loves us enough to send the gift of His beloved Son.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Tetiana Soares
Sharla Fritz is a Christian author and speaker who weaves honest and humorous stories into life-changing Bible study. Author of the new book Measured by Grace: How God Defines Success, Sharla writes about God’s transforming grace and unfailing love. Sharla lives in the Chicago suburbs with her amusing pastor husband. Get her FREE ebook 21 Five-Minute Soul-Rest Practices or connect with Sharla at www.sharlafritz.com and Facebook.