2 Corinthians 9:15 – Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (NIV)
Last Christmas, I especially enjoyed the seasonal festivities, with vibrant colours, lights, socials, music, and so forth. It's surely the richest, most enchanting time of the year. Furthermore, the season gives us opportunities to do the unusual, like singing for shut-ins, playing instruments in Walmart around the Salvation Army kettle, and hanging bold decorations.
Oh, I know that I'm merely talking about our ways of "packaging" the true Gift. I also know how festivities can overshadow the Christ Child. But this time, I refused to let the ungodly motives of others dampen my enjoyment of the beautiful "packaging".
Jesus Himself was packaged — by divine design. The Father presented Him in the wrappings of frail humanity, including the packaging of corrupted religion and the elaborate packaging of a vast, pagan empire donned in its brutal ambitions. Obviously, God didn't present Jesus in the enchanted wrappings of Christmas tradition. Quite the contrary!
Let's not overlook that! God still uses impure packaging to present His Gift to the world. We, the expressions of that Gift, are presented in the various wrappings of broken institutions, organizations, families, churches, and governments — to shine His light within the darkness.
Surely, the tragedy of Christianity is not the flawed package that we find ourselves in, but our idolatrous longing for better packaging. That's what pulls us off course. That's what tempts us to embark on a mission either to escape or to purify the package itself. In our zeal, we may become controlling and legalistic, or we simply give up hope. Either way, we feel righteous and justified in our desire for a purer "package".
James 4:1 – What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? (NIV)
These words resonate with me. At times, God has revealed my unconscious desire for the church to function more biblically, not for God's glory, but for my own sake, for my own sense of security. I wanted the church to be my little utopia on earth where I could always feel safe and loved. However, God didn't plan to change the "packaging" for my sake, but to change me and build my trust in His perfect love. It's just what the prayers in Scripture reflect — like this one:
Ephesians 3:17b-19 – I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (NIV 2011)
Such praying is utterly dependent on the gift of His Son and His power to transform people from within. Truly, that's how the Light shines. May this be our prayer:
Prayer: Lord, cleanse us from any impure motives that battle within. May our desire become Your desire: that Your grace would transform us personally, and that we would accept our life situations as Your grace builders. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "O Come All Ye Faithful" (Lyrics)