I have a guest blogger today, Savannah Lyon is a single working mom of a 4 year old daughter with a degree in children's ministry. Enjoy her post.
I love seeing a bunch of beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree, don't you? I used to love wrapping packages exquisitly. My dad summoned me every year to do his wrapping, left up to him, my mom would take until July to remove the duct tape off her gift. We have a friend who wrapped gifts in a department store. The rules were that they could use as much wraping paper as needed, but one piece of tape. The seams had to line up perfectly so that it appeared seamless. Sometimes I would try to meet that goal, but it was a tall task. I preferred to use ribbons and bows to beautifully adorn the gifts inside.
I probably stopped all of that when Kailie was born. One, who has the time? Two, I realized the wrapping was going to be in shreds anyway.
This year I was lucky to get them wrapped. I considered just leaving them in the Target/Wal*Mart sack and putting them under the tree. Kids love unwrapping gifts, don't they? After my niece and Kailie finished unwrapping theirs, we joked that we should rewrap them and have them do it all again. They probably could have cared less if we had given them an empty box.
One of Kailie's gifts this year was the Message for Kids. It is a devotional Bible geared for 4-8 year olds. I love how it presents the stories. The pictures are very good and it has simple ideas to help make the stories come alive into real life lessons.
Last night we read about John the Baptizer. If you aren't familiar with who he is, he is a guy that was a distant cousin of Jesus. He was about 6 months older than Jesus. He wore camel's hair for clothing, lived in the desert and ate honey and locusts. Artists love using their imaginations to depict John. He usually looks like a cross between a modern day homeless man and a cave man. Even for 2000 years ago, he didn't exactly look fatherly.
Nevertheless, people were drawn to him because he told them that the Messiah was coming soon and the Kingdom was at hand. The poor people loved this because they thought it meant that their was going to be a new political kingdom and they wouldn't be subjected to Rome any longer. The Pharisees and Sadducees had made things quite well for themselves and really liked the privileges they had with the current rulers. They were not eager for things to change.
The poor people were repenting and being baptized because they wanted to be ready when the King arrived. (Remember, they were assuming it would be a theocracy, not a democracy or even a spiritual kingdom.) The Pharisees and other religious leaders came to check things out. John told them that they were basically nice looking packages, but empty boxes. They didn't so much like that.
Back to the Bible.
In a little bubble at the end of the story, the editors asked, "What would you think about John if you saw him?
I know that my proud little self has always thought I would have repented and changed when approached with such a character. When I put John into 21st Century clothes and cities, I realized I would have ignored/avoided him.
That made me start thinking...God has used a lot of different...unusual...strange...WEIRD packages to present his message to us. Don't believe me? A talking donkey. A hand writing on a wall. Elijah played a game of guestures for well over a year. His message came to the Ninevites through a man who had been in a whale's stomach for three days. Then Jesus came as a baby to an unwed teenage girl. I'm sure I missed a few in between.
I began to realize that God doesn't wrap his messages perfectly. In fact, most of the time it's a little scandalous. That really meant a lot to me. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own packaging, believing that it is not worthy of harboring a gift so great as the good news. There are other times when I am so obsessed with the outside trimmings that I neglect the fact that my box is empty.
Maybe, today, your box is empty. You are really concerned with appearing to have it all together so that everyone will hear what you have to say. But the truth is that on the inside you are dead, like the pharisees. That is why they were called "White washed tombs." Don't be fooled by those who don't look quite right. God has, is and will be using them.
Perhaps your wrapping paper is a little bent up and out of shape. Maybe nothing matches, or you are even fortunate to have wrapping paper at all--you don't feel much better than a Wal*Mart sack. Maybe you are marked by the scars of your past. Inside, you hold a lot of guilt and shame for things you have done or have been done to you. God wants to replace the guilt and shame with a new package. Love. Life. Hope. Don't be surprised when he uses you to tell others about the new package, even if your wrapping isn't so special. He has done it, he is doing it, he will continue to do it.
Let me know if you have any questions about this love, life and hope. I'd love to chat, as long as you don't mind that my wrapping isn't perfect.