Every year God reveals something new to me about Christmas. About how Mary must have felt, for example, the year I myself was large with child. About how God’s illogical love for us makes Christmas possible in the first place. About how Jesus came as a baby in order to understand what we endure through life in these earthly bodies. About how Christmas comes whether we’re ready or not, but it’s always the perfect time. About how all of the lights of Christmas are a symbol of the One true light. This year’s epiphany came in the ToysRUs parking lot.
I was practically skipping as I walked to my car, an oversized purple shopping bag awkwardly slung over my shoulder as I fumbled for my keys. My heart was actually beating a little faster than normal and I had what I am sure was a goofy grin on my face. I wanted to call someone – anyone – and tell them what had happened.
I had found the absolute most perfect gift I could imagine for my daughter.
I mean….it’s perfect. Completely in line with her current obsession, in just her size, with all the accessories and pieces and parts “each sold separately” to complete the ensemble.
It was perfection in a Toys-R-Us bag. I never even go to Toys-R-Us (because I usually just can’t take the sensory overstimulation), but I did a couple of weeks ago in hopes of finding something like what I was looking for….and there it was. The last one, shoved all the way to the back, the box corners mashed in from what was apparently a long life lived on the shelf. It cost a little more than I had expected…but how could I not go for it? It was perfect.
Walking to the checkout line I began picturing Christmas morning in my head. I could just see her face…her joy…her disbelief, even, that I had found this thing so perfect that she didn’t even know existed. “I cannot wait to give it to her,” I thought. “I absolutely cannot wait.” I felt like a kid again, the magical anticipation of Christmas bringing a smile to my face as I mentally counted the days until the 25th.
It was as I got into the car to drive home, my treasure safely tucked in the back seat, that I realized something about my excitement. I – a lowly human mama – was absolutely giddy with the anticipation of revealing this most perfect of gifts to my child. Simultaneously, I was tortured by the thought that I had to wait more than two weeks to give it to her. I wondered, even, if I would be able to keep my mouth shut in my excitement.
As I started driving, I realized that my excitement must pale in comparison to that of God in the weeks leading up to Jesus’ birth.
I nearly tremble with my eagerness for my daughter to open this perfect (yet admittedly trivial) gift. What must it have felt like for God to anticipate the unveiling of the Gift every one of His children needed most?
If I’m this excited for the gift my child will discover under the tree, how much more excited must God have been for all of His children to receive the Gift of all gifts that arrived under the star that night?
I think about it and am dumbfounded.
I can hardly bear the wait of another week until she can open it. How unbearable must it have been for God to wait hundreds and hundreds of years to reveal what He had planned?
I spent a little more on her gift than I normally would, but because it’s just perfect, I didn’t hesitate at the register. And God….well, He spent it all on His gift. He held nothing back. He emptied the bank and left nothing in reserve. This gift He had prepared…it was the very definition of extravagant.
And while I know she’ll love it, there is always a little place in my mind that prepares me for disappointment. She’s not always as grateful as I would like her to be. She’s a kid, after all. Her interests change so quickly, too, that even if she does love it, the moment may pass quickly.
But then I imagine God. God….He knew His gift wouldn’t be received well. He knew that many of us – those whose faces He dreamed would light up at the sight of the most perfect Gift they could receive – would not be excited, but would be a little disappointed. He knew that there would be many who didn’t even acknowledge or recognize the gift at all, since it wasn’t elaborately ornamented or presented with great fanfare. He knew that so many of us who needed the Gift most of all would leave it unopened and untouched for years, while still carrying our hopes and dreams of just such a gift in our hearts.
If I knew for sure that my daughter would not react with all of the excitement I’m hoping for, I might be tempted to withhold the gift from her. I might consider that it’s not worth the expense if she’s not even going to appreciate it. My excitement might falter, bracing myself for Christmas morning failure and wondering if I should even bother.
But in God’s mind, that was never an option. He knew we desperately needed this Gift He had to give, whether we knew it or not. And nothing would stop Him from giving what we neither deserved nor appreciated. It was perfect.
It’s killing me to watch my daughter play in her games of pretend, knowing that just a few feet away is the perfect addition to her imaginary play. But it’s not time yet. And God…how must it have torn His heart to watch us flounder and flail through life, knowing that what we needed was there with Him, just out of sight, all along. The perfect gift. But for so long….it wasn’t time yet. It wasn’t yet time.
Until it was time, and angels brought the news and the world was changed without even knowing. How God’s excitement must have grown as Mary’s baby bump expanded. How His anticipation must have squeezed His heart as the contractions squeezed her body. How satisfied He must have been when the pains of labor were alleviated and the gift…finally…was revealed! A long-awaited treasure wrapped not in beautiful gift wrap, but in the humble cloths of a peasant girl in the throes of new motherhood.
So friends, as we engage in the last week of hustling and bustling before Christmas, let your heart get excited. I know – there is so much yet to do and the thought of going back into yet another store is nauseating. But ask God to give you a fresh excitement, and be swept away in anticipation of the greatest, most perfect Gift ever revealed.