It’s Christmas Eve in my parents’ house. My brother and I have descended upon their space with our spouses and children; with suitcases, bags, and toys; from baby bottles to teenage ambivalence, we are all hunkered down in the warmth of their home, taking turns in the bathroom and bumping into each other in the kitchen. As per tradition, we have a meal and go to church together on Christmas Eve, at the church where we grew up. And sometime in between all of that, we open presents together. Years back, my brother and I agreed to not buy presents for each other…it just got too stressful to try to find some $50 something that the other one wanted or needed and we started exchanging gift cards, until one year we just said, this is silly…just buy gifts for the kids.
And buying for the kids can be hard, too. Trying to find something that they don’t already have, but that they would want. (Two of my kids are cursed by having their birthday within a month of Christmas…we all know how that goes…) All too often, the kids start tearing into a gift, full of excitement and anticipation, only to get to the bottom of the box and see that they already have that game or that the toy that they were hoping for continues to elude them. Wisely, my brother and his wife advised my mom to not buy more toys for their son as he has so many toys as it is. And this was received with all of the thrill you can imagine a two year old would have by opening a box with a very practical gift inside. His bright eyes were eager and a giant smile filled his face, until his tiny hands made it through the wrapping paper and he ripped the lid off the box to find a very nice pair of red and black snow boots. His smile immediately disappeared, or rather was transferred to his thankful father who now doesn’t have to fight through a crowd to purchase the last pair of boots at the store after the first big snowfall of the year when my nephew wants nothing more than to tumble around in the magical white powder. The little man’s reaction went from sheer joy to straight up frustration in about four seconds flat. It was the gift he didn’t want, that he couldn’t begin to understand that he actually needs. We finally distracted him with some little toy cars, and eventually he sat quietly watching cartoons in his adorable Christmas jammies.
More than two thousand years ago, God did the very same thing for us. He gave us the gift that we didn’t ask for, that we didn’t understand, that we didn’t think we needed. We were looking for our Savior to come as a sparkly, expensive, commanding King. We didn’t ask for a little baby. We didn’t ask for the stinky stable. But God has a view more like my brother’s…give them what they need, not what they think they want. We didn’t know that we needed a Jesus who would grow up among us; who would start his life on the run with his parents, who would play at the temple, who would eat and drink with us. We didn’t know that we needed a Savior who would experience life, both it’s best and it’s worst moments. We were a little disappointed, a little confused when this baby showed up and God suggested this was His plan for us. But then, at that first moment we realized that we needed a Savior who we could relate to, who wasn’t some distant and untouchable guy in a robe, we were so relieved and thankful for that gift he gave us so long ago….the gift that we didn’t know we needed…until we really needed it.
No doubt my nephew will be thankful for the red and black boots when he doesn’t have to miss a minute playing in the snow. He just doesn’t see it now. And just the same, God’s gift to us reveals Himself over and over again, in new ways, that we never knew we needed…until we experience His perfect gift at just the moment we need him.Disclaimer: My viewpoints are not necessarily reflective of my employer, or any local, regional or national organization that I belong to. As a matter of fact, I pretty much just speak for myself. Please keep that in mind.