On December 11th of this year, my bride Nancy and I were privileged to see The Christmas Story at Sight & Sound Theater in Lancaster. We have seen every production they put on in the last thirty years. The quality and professionalism is right up there with anything I’ve seen on Broadway. The Christmas Story was the one show we didn’t see until December 11th, so it was a special treat.
As we watched the presentation from our front row seats, all the expected depictions were there: Joseph and Mary’s betrothal ceremony; Gabriel’s angelic announcement of her supernatural pregnancy; Caesar’s ordered census that took the couple to Bethlehem in her 9th month; and of course, the birth of the Christ child in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
When the birth of the baby Christ was portrayed on stage, they played an audio recording of an infant’s cry. I wasn’t expecting the response that I had to that cry. A wave of emotion swept over me, and tears welled up in my eyes. God in human form, the form of a baby. He came in such a way so as to experience the totality of the human condition. What a God. What a Savior. It was at that moment that the real meaning for this beautiful season of the year was presented in such a way that it drowned out all other voices but its own!
Christmas 1971 was our daughter Barbara’s first real Christmas (she was only six months old in December of 1970, the year she was born). Our toddler awakened on Christmas morning and was soon immersed in the smells, music, lights, and excited chatter of the season. We placed a gift before her, and after some coaxing, she began to remove the wrapping paper and opened the box. We helped her pull out the toy, watching for her reaction. Then, with the camera ready to record her every move, she ignored the present and reached eagerly for the sparkling paper and colorful bow.
Nancy and I laughed at the scene and certainly got it. Our little girl didn’t realize the difference between the wrapping and the gift. We also knew that by the next Christmas she will understand and squeal with delight at getting “just what I always wanted!”
What’s interesting is that we often replicate her actions in how we handle and value our Gift.
Christmas is about Christ, not about lights, lawn displays, hung stockings, red and green, Rudolph, bells, and bows — all wonderful traditions and treats. But in the excitement of the season, we can miss the Savior.
We should know better. After all, we’ve grown well beyond the toddler stage of Christian maturity… right?
This year, go ahead and celebrate like crazy — sing, laugh, sip, trim, exchange, and feast (I know I plan to). But dig deeper, beneath the wrappings and trappings. Unwrap the Gift. Discover Jesus.
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4: 9 – 10 (NIV)