It’s the holiday season. We see homes decorated, TV commercials with holiday themes, radio stations playing Christmas music and many will make plans to spend time with family or other dear ones.
Also, lots of folks will enjoy the tradition of exchanging gifts.
Although gift bags have become a bit of a thing, it is common that gifts will come in a box, wrapped with colorful paper. Perhaps a bow is added as a finishing touch. As the gifts are placed in a grouping under a Christmas tree, the colors pop in all their splendor.
If that was the end of it, all that we would have to enjoy, well, that would be a downer. Because the real experience comes from opening the gift and encountering the glee of surprise in that first moment, when we recognize what was hidden beneath the wrapping paper.
With the exception of one year old children, we could really care less about the wrapper and the box at this point. We’re excited and grateful that one of our beloved took the care and time to locate an item selected just for us. A personal gift. A personal expression of love. It’s not about the box or the wrapper, but what’s inside the box.
I guess the same can be said about people. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an expression commonly used on this matter. And yet, it’s so easy to fall into that trap. Fancy car, nice house, beautiful clothes and appearance – all of which might dupe us into thinking this person is successful, smart, well-adjusted and happy. Rather, she could also be none of those things.
Jesus appearance would not have endeared himself to many of his time. He was a blue-collar guy from a backwater town. Imagine you met a dump truck driver from a small, rural town in your area. Would you drop everything in your life when you met him and follow his teachings?
Yet it wasn’t the wrapper or the box. It wasn’t his appearance or credentials. Those encountering Jesus looked beyond the wrapper and the box, and experienced the inside of Jesus.
Those following him learned he fulfilled hundreds of prophesies – meaning people for hundreds of years prior predicted how we would enter this world, live among us and even how he would be brutally beaten and murdered. They learned that Jesus would reorient and raise the standard for living, in that it was no longer not only wrong to murder someone, but even to hold a grudge against another. He had the power to provide physical healing to many. He promised to provide us with eternal peace – a peace that begins now when we choose him as our LORD, and this same peace will stretch into eternity. He came to save us from not only the world but from ourselves. He did that by paying the price on the cross that a fair, just and loving Father requires.
That is what is inside Jesus. And Jesus can and will dwell in you once you receive him and let him in. Its not easy, but it is simple. We pray this, only if and when we’re ready and we mean it:
God, forgive me for doing things my way. I’m tired of screwing up, and living so selfishly. I know there isn’t enough things I can do right to change any of my past. But I can do something going forward. I believe that you came to this earth in human form, you were crucified and died. I also believe that you rose again after three days because you are God. And from this moment forward, I’m going to live my life with you. I know I’ll still mess up, and when I do, I’ll bring that to you and ask you to help me to continue to live a life that day by day begins to look more like a way that would honor you. Thank you for your sacrifice and for your generosity of allowing me to join you in your kingdom – now and forever.
In your name, Jesus, I pray,