Unwrapping Christmas Presents

I don’t think there is any experience in childhood quite like unwrapping Christmas presents after emptying a loaded stocking. Ripping through wrapping paper was one of my favorite sounds as a child, especially when my hands were doing the ripping.

And what was inside was always a treat. Shiny see-through plastic packaging, revealing a beautifully displayed toy on the inside (tightly tied to the back of the cardboard scenery). A new doll in a yellow dress. Or a Barbie with a jacuzzi that really bubbled up the water. Or a My Little Pony with diapers and a bottle. Those were the days.

Somewhere along the line, presents just lose something. I don’t know why. But sometime in between being a child and becoming an adult, that certain holiday sparkle vanished from the present ceremony. Somewhere along the line gift cards took over. Somewhere along the line wrapping paper and big puffy bows and nostalgic Christmas tags stopped being necessary.

What happened? What caused the adventure to end?

In Revelation, Jesus indites a church that they “have left” their “first love” (see Revelation 2:4, NASB).

Somewhere along the way, we can lose our first love (or sweetest, richest love) for Christ. Much like how Christmas presents become old hat, so do God’s presents to us. Much like how we take shortcuts by buying gift cards or not wrapping presents, we begin to take shortcuts in our thank-you’s to God. Our soliloquies and poems and love songs become polite, obligatory, punctual, and brief, “Thank you’s”. Our extravagant love for the Savior who gives us forgiveness, mercy, grace, and spiritual gifts becomes small. We forget the sparkle we had every time we used to open a gift from Him. The remarkable becomes nice. The miraculous becomes all right. The stunning work within us becomes okay.

Let’s rewind our lives and remember who we used to be, and who we have become by the gifts of Jesus. And let’s get back to opening up the presents He gives us with positively superb glee.

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Zebra-Striped Gum

I was totally intolerant of bullies as a kindergartener.

One time we were on the bus, and a girl was handing out Zebra-Striped gum. Of course it was a huge hit. Kids flocked around her, pleading for a piece of gum. She had a whole pack, or nearly all of one, and it was more gum than I’d ever had in my possession.

Still, I didn’t like Zebra-Striped gum. But I watched with interest as she passed it out to the crowding children. One boy, however, she wouldn’t give a piece to no matter how he begged. I liked that boy. And that made me mad.

“Can I have a piece of gum?” I asked innocently.

She gave me a piece, and I immediately handed it over to the boy who hadn’t gotten one.

I haven’t yet forgotten that exchange.

The warmth in his smile. The glowing victory between the two of us. We were friends.

You know, what I did wasn’t that big of a deal . . but still, you don’t see it happen everyday. Lots of days, the left-out kid doesn’t get the Zebra-striped gum. And that goes right on into adulthood. Most of the time, the bullies win out.

If Jesus had been on the bus that day, I’m confident that He would have given away His piece of Zebra-Striped gum, too. Not because He didn’t want it, but because He saw someone else wanted it who didn’t get any.

Jesus came for the sick and the hurting. The forgotten and the broken-down.   The disheveled and the bullied. Jesus says about Himself that He “came to seek and to save the lost” (from Luke 19:10b, NIV).

That’s how I know He’d hand out His piece of Zebra-Striped gum, too.