How to Wrap Your Christmas Presence
- Dr. Bill Lawrence Leader Formation International
- 2009 18 Dec
A while back CNN did a survey on what people plan to do about their Christmas presents this year. A surprising number said they would spend about the same amount of money as ever, although a very significant number were cutting back. As one man put it, "If I can't make it, I won't give it."
A number of years ago during another season of financial struggle, I read that in hard times when presents are smaller, wrappings become bigger. People spend more on the outside than usual because they have to spend less on the inside. So this year if you get a great big box with expensive looking wrapping, you can probably figure that the gift won't quite live up to the promise of the packaging. I guess in hard times it's what's on the outside that counts. And a lot of us live that way when it comes to our Christmas Presence.
So how will you wrap your Christmas Presence? After all, that's the greatest gift you can give, no matter what kind of shape the economy is in. Will it be true of you that in difficult financial and spiritual times when you're wrestling with what's going on in your life, you might try to dress yourself up more -- try to make yourself look better than you are?
I think we should wrap our Christmas Presence the same way God wrapped His when He wrapped His Son in frail, dependent, submissive human flesh and gave Him to us. The wrapping on God's Christmas Presence wasn't much to see at all -- just a Messiah in a manger. No marching troops, no blaring trumpets, no palace celebrations -- only a baby's wailing cry and swaddling clothes.
It's interesting sometimes how much we focus on the wrapping and how little we really show the gift. Our Christmas Presence is Christ in us; that's all we have to give. Yet we sometimes work hard-very hard-to deny the truth of what this means. We struggle to get the wrapping paper and the ribbons and the decorations just right on the package and don't realize that all this does is detract from the presence of Christ in us, our hope of glory.
So I'm saying that we must wrap our Christmas Presence the same way God wrapped His. We must become like that Messiah in the manger. And that's where dependent, submissive, human flesh comes in.
Our flesh, our humanity, our frailty, is the wrapping paper on the outside of our Presence, even as it was for Jesus. For some of us the wrapping paper has a bit of a used look. Perhaps it's getting a little wrinkled, the ribbons a little thinner and more frayed than they once were, the pine cones and Christmas bells show that they have been well-used across the years. Yet the Presence never loses His glory. In fact God will use the wear-and-tear and fraying of the wrappings to show our Christmas Presence even more clearly than ever.
It's amazing to realize that the King of kings and Lord of lords became desperately dependent on His Father and even on His earthly parents when He was born and became One of us. So we must become as dependent as He was-as powerless and humble as that Messiah in the manger. The proud have no need for Him and that's why they have no Christmas Presence; they have only themselves. Because this is true, they have to dress up the outside. What else can you do when you don't have much on the inside? And that's why the box in which we put our Christmas Presence must be humble, dependent upon on the One we live to give to others.
What about the tissue paper that protects our Christmas Presence? What else can it be but submissive human flesh? That's the kind of flesh Jesus had: the flesh that had no will of its own; the flesh that said, "Nevertheless, not my will but yours;" the flesh that gave all so we could gain all. And that's the sort of flesh in which we must wrap our Christmas Presence if we are to give the greatest present of all, the present of eternal life to those around us.
It's the wrappings that attract us to the gift. They arouse anticipation, create curiosity, stir up excitement and draw us to the Presence inside the box. That's what makes the way we wrap our Christmas Presence so critical. And we must remember that once the wrappings are opened and reveal the Presence in us, we are no longer are important. It's the Presence that matters, not us. So let's do what God did and wrap our Christmas Presence in frail, dependent, submissive human flesh so we can give others what really matters this Christmas and all through the year: Christ in us, the only hope of glory.
Bill Lawrence is the President of Leader Formation International, Senior Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Ministries and Adjunct Professor of DMin Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary where he served full-time for more than twenty three years (1981-2004). During this time he also served as the Executive Director of the Center for Christian Leadership for twelve years. Bill is the author of two books: Beyond the Bottom Line—Where Faith and Business Meet, Moody Press and Effective Pastoring, Word Publishing. Bill served twelve years as founding pastor of South Hills Community Church, San Jose, CA (1969 to 1981). He has also been the Interim Pastor of Northwest Bible Church, Dallas, TX, on two different occasions.
Original publication date: December 18, 2009
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