“The Grinch stood puzzling and puzzling. ‘How could it be so?! It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!’ He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming-it came! Somehow or other-it came just the same.”
Few people find as much delight in the “wrappings” of Christmas as I do. I am entirely enthralled by the winter wonderland of snowflakes and mistletoe, jingle bells and pine trees, cider and reindeer cookies…
…sometimes, more than I am with the God I am supposed to be celebrating.
Living in Africa has given me an opportunity to experience what I have conceptualized in my head as “Christmas: unwrapped.” If you take away the caroling out in the snow, the garland and Christmas tree and shimmering white twinkle lights, the cranberries and cinnamon and apple pie, peppermint mochas and chewy molasses cookies, the Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, snow angels and cozy knitted scarves, lovely sleigh-ride weather and Christmas radio and jingle bells-if you take away my family [the people I most dearly love in the whole wide world]-…well kid, you’ve got yourself an unwrapped Christmas.
I positively adore the wrapping. You know I do. And what’s more, I am entirely, unwaveringly convinced that God gets excited about all of it too.
BUT. One of the things that God has been teaching me since the day I boarded my first Dakar-bound flight last year, is to adore and treasure and delight in HIM more than in His gifts to me. And don’t get me wrong-the pieces of Christmas that I love are indeed heart-fluttering gifts to me from a God that I ardently believe gets a kick out of the wonder they provide. But they are not the point.
What a tragedy if in the breathtaking splendor of the Christmas season-in the elaborate grandeur of our oversized trees and countless yards of garland and ribbon, in the magical, frosty flurry of snow and holly and mistletoe and all of our packages, boxes and bags…we miss the stable. A tired, decrepit, ordinary stable that didn’t smell a thing like apple cinnamon or peppermint.
Christmas is God’s passionate pursuit of you and I in the very midst of our utter rejection of Him. It’s Jesus leaving His home for Christmas to reconcile God and sinners like me. It’s a thrill of hope and joy to the whole world-because we are deeply, intensely, forever loved by the God that created snowflakes and Christmas trees and peppermint mochas. There is hope. There is joy. There is marvelous cause for great celebration and greater worship-cause to fall on our knees and hear the angel voices proclaiming that Christ our [yours and mine!] Savior is born! And heaven and nature sing.
“For behold, I bring you good news of GREAT JOY which shall be for ALL the people [Senegalese and Americans alike]. For unto you [yes, you!] is born this day in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
Let every heart prepare Him room.
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.