Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Luke 2:11,12 NIV
I don’t want to brag but on occasion I have made some sacrifices in my day to be with loved ones. 🙂 Like driving hours out of the way while we were on vacation to stop and see friends or relatives because we were just too close NOT to visit these dear ones. When my mother was laid up for six months in a hospital that was two and a half hours away from where she and I both lived, I drove 3 or 4 times a week to see her so she wouldn’t have to be alone. But these and of course any sacrifices any of us make for those we love are nothing compared to what God gave up for us.
Whenever I read the Christmas Story, I am always amazed at the love that God has for us. He, who created EVERYTHING that was created, wrapped Himself in humanity to be with us.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Philippians 2:6-8 NIV
This Christmas season, I have been inspired by not only how this “Gift” was wrapped in humanity, but also how He came wrapped as a baby with rags and in a manger. He could have come in a grand procession wrapped in royal purple and golden crown. He is after all the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:16) When I think about how the first breaths of this greatest Gift mankind has ever received was the putrid smell of animal manure, I find it hard to wrap my mind around that! The pictures you see on Christmas cards of all that clean hay is simply not reality.
For Mary and Joseph, this Gift also came wrapped in the most adverse of circumstances. The noisy and dirty conditions of the birth were preceded by 90 miles of travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. According to James F. Strange, a New Testament and biblical archeology professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa,
“We have no idea how difficult it was. It was a fairly grueling trip. In antiquity, the most we find people traveling is 20 miles a day. And this trip was very much uphill and downhill. It was not simple.” (Source)
Strange estimated that Joseph and Mary probably would have only traveled about 10 miles a day because of Mary’s condition and that the weather would have been rainy, in the 30’s and freezing at night. Other hazards such as lions, bears and wild boars would have been in the heavily forested valley along the Jordan river where they most likely would have traveled. Archeologists have unearthed documents warning travelers of such dangers. Thieves were also a common hazard along the major routes.
In addition to these circumstances, Mary and Joseph also found themselves dealing with the consequences of Roman domination and the gossip and rejection from family members due to the scandalous pregnancy. (See No Room In The Inn.) But oh what a glorious Gift there was, wrapped in all of the hardship and suffering!
We see over and over again in scripture that often gifts come to us in wrappings contrary and seemingly inconsistent with the gift itself.
- As we have already seen, God’s Gift, the Messiah, wrapped in humanity and poverty. Philippians 2:6-8; Luke 2:12
- The Kingdom of Heaven wrapped in poverty and persecution, comfort wrapped in mourning, and fulfillment wrapped in hunger and thirst. Matthew 5:1-12
- Strength wrapped in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
- Perseverance and endurance wrapped in trials. James 1:2-3
- The treasure of God’s power wrapped in jars of clay. 2 Corinthians 4:7
- Light wrapped in darkness but not overcome by it. John 1:5
- Eternal Life wrapped up in death. John 3:16
The past couple years of my life have been the most challenging. In the middle of my hardships, I personally have come to discover as Joseph and Mary did, that some really amazing gifts come wrapped up in some very rotten circumstances.
Gifts of Courage and Compassion come wrapped up in illness and disabilities. Gifts of Faith come wrapped up in fear and disappointment. Gifts of Comfort come wrapped up in grief. Gifts of Generosity come wrapped up in financial hardships. Gifts of Mercy, Grace and Forgiveness come wrapped up in failure and shortcomings.
Recently God showed me in the natural what He does in the spiritual–that even peace can come wrapped up in a storm. We had a snowstorm a couple of weeks ago which was bad enough to get two days of school cancelled. Afterwards, I went outside to find the beautiful scene pictured below. (The picture doesn’t do it justice.) It was like a Winter Cathedral quiet and peaceful brought directly from the storm!
This Christmas, I pray Dear Reader, that you would not get so distracted or discouraged by the gift wrappings and miss the amazing gifts God has for you. Merry Christmas! LH
Photos ©Earmark Expressions.