Saturday, December 8, 2012

Unwrapping The Gift

A few of the readers of this blog have inquired as to how I am doing, as I have not posted here in quite a while.
As usual it hasn't been for a lack of anything to say!
It is a busy time for many of us.
All I have been able to do is focus on "the next thing" on my list.
Last night held a prominent place on it.

I had the privilege of being the speaker at my church's Ladies Christmas Tea.
Papa being so faithful and gracious put a message on my heart to share.
I am going to share it here, though it will not be word for word, as He has a tendency of improvising!

Recording it here serves two purposes for me.
It reconnects us, my dear readers and it also gives me time for a little R&R afterward, as it will be more of a copy and paste job for me.

Today was another biggie on the list, which is why I need that R&R.
I had the joy of taking my rehab friends Christmas shopping at the local ministry, ACTS4.
And joy it was!
To see their faces light up as they gathered their selections, which had even been wrapped for them, made my Christmas!

It was a full day and this body is not as young as it was, so indulge me as I copy and paste!

(To set the mood I am not adapting the intro.)

Good evening!  Isn’t this lovely??  A lot of hard work goes into such a beautiful evening and I know the goal for each one involved is to honor our LORD! 
That is the point for all who know our Gracious God.
It is my desire that the message I am going to share with you may do just that.  It is the message that he gave me a year ago.

I attend another Christmas event every year, but after last year’s offering I left frustrated; frustrated that the message of Christmas was not clearly proclaimed.  I went home and wrote what my Jesus put on my heart.  I share it with you tonight.

A few years ago I had the privilege of speaking at this lovely Christmas Tea and I am humbled that you would invite me back!
 The topic then was joy, specifically finding the true joy of the season.  Anybody remember?
Oh the joy!!

One of the little joys of the season for me is the giving of gifts.   I love to watch someone open a gift that I have chosen especially for them.
Maybe that is why I found a particular family member, who will remain nameless, a bit frustrating for quite a few years.  This person would lift the package, shake it, examine it, NEVER UNWRAP IT and then make a guess, which most often was right on the money!  I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing him, not only unwrap the gift, but to witness his delight as he discovered the gift.

Tonight I’d like to focus on the importance of unwrapping a gift, a particular Gift, and the discovery that comes with the unwrapping.

A few years ago I received an unexpected gift at Christmas.  It was from someone I barely knew, but that my husband had helped out.
When I opened it, I was a little perplexed as to why the person chose to give me a hammer!  What was it that made him think of me when he spotted the hammer??
Okay, it is pretty hammer, as far as hammers go…but nothing I would ever put on my wish list.  (It is small and the head is painted with flowers.)
So I put the cute little thing in a desk drawer and forgot about it.
Until the day that I needed a hammer and the one that is supposed to be in the kitchen drawer was missing.  You know how that goes, don’t you??
I was about to head down to our garage to find another one, when I recalled that I had put this one away in my desk, which was much closer at hand.
So out of the drawer it came to do the little job.

As I hammered, I became aware of how easy it was to swing this little guy, or should I say girl? 
I have arthritis in my thumbs and hammering usually causes a little pain.   Not so with this light weight!
Thus it became my official hammer.  An added plus was that the men of the house would be less inclined to steal away with a pretty, girlie hammer.  J
It took about another year or so for me to discover the other attributes of my pretty little hammer.
Occasionally I would briefly wonder why its handle had a slight rattle, but never stayed with the thought long enough to make any discovery.  I seem to always be on the run!  Until one time when, for whatever reason, I had a few spare minutes?  I decided to explore further.
I found that the handle unscrewed and that it held a flat-end screw driver.   However, the rattle still was happening, but that is because it was holding another screw driver; this one a Phillips head!
Since this discovery it has gotten a good bit of use!

Each time I use this little tool, I am reminded that a gift can be so much more than I imagined.
But it needs to be unwrapped and explored.

Did you ever receive a gift that was so beautifully wrapped that you even hesitated to open it? (I displayed a beautiful gift)  I am one to admire such a package, as I am far from proficient in the wrapping department.  It's gift bags all the way for me!

Even though it might give us some pleasure to just gaze upon it and maybe even display it, it was not the intention of the gift-giver for it to remain unwrapped.  We are meant to unwrap it and discover the true gift inside.  (I lifted the lid.)

Similarly, it is easy to admire God’s Christmas Gift to us without truly unwrapping it and discovering all He has for us.

Every year, as a child, I would see the Nativity come out of the box to be set up.  It was just one of the Christmas decorations, along with the artificial, white tree and the holly that was wound around the banister.  Hey, it was the sixties!

I knew the story of Jesus’ birth, as I went to church every Christmas… and Easter, but I never really made the connection between the two.  Jesus always stayed the baby in the manger.

It is interesting to me that my favorite Christmas carol was, and still is, What Child is this? 
"What Child is this who laid to restOn Mary's lap is sleeping?Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,While shepherds watch are keeping?"

Somewhere in my heart of hearts that question had lain unanswered.

As I was thinking about this, a line from an old spiritual came to mind.
“Sweet baby Jesus, we didn’t know who You were…”
That describes many people.  It described me.

How sad that must make the Giver of all good gifts.

Well, we are going to unwrap the Marvelous Christmas Gift we were presented and, as we do, I picture The Father looking down with anticipation, eager to watch our faces as we unwrap His gift and discover all that Gift is meant to be for us!

For the first twenty-eight years of my life I had attempted to hold my life together all by myself.  I felt all alone.  I so wanted to be loved, but time and again those who came into my life failed to do so.
I was a single mom and I hoped for a man to come along side me and my son to take care of us.

Finally I met someone who was actually willing to marry me.  I jumped at the chance.
In short order I realized that I had not found the happily ever after story I was so bent on having.

That is when the panic attacks began.

I woke my husband early one morning and told him not to get upset, but I thought that I was dying.  I could not breathe.
After an ambulance ride to the hospital where the doctor prescribed Valium, though I tried to get him to understand what I believed was happening and I was sent home.

Over the next weeks I became desperate and began to attend church. 

One Sunday while away from home, I had visited a small little church. I do not remember what was said that day, but I do remember thinking that I never wanted to leave the place, but wanted what the people there seemed to have.
On the way out the door they handed me the devotional booklet, Our Daily Bread.

My appetite was whetted and the next thing I knew I began to read the Bible, which has taken me on a grand adventure for Thirty-three years now!  
Through God’s Word, His Spirit introduced me to the One who loved me unconditionally.

The question of my heart was answered:
"This, this is Christ the King!"

When Christmas approached that year I saw everything with fresh eyes.
I discovered who that Babe in the manger was: with no doubt, the Son of God.  I learned that He fulfilled every promise God had made over many centuries, promises of the coming Savior. 

Before the foundation of the world God had recognized that we would need a Savior.  He knew that we would mess things up and end up being broken people in a broken world. 

Who could set things right?  Only someone without any brokenness of their own would be equal to the task, which eliminated every single human being.

This narrowed it down to God.

And this called for great sacrifice on His part.  
His plan was the only way to not only redeem us from the mess, but enable us to grasp, in some small way, what He did for us.

So the curtain of Heaven parted and the Holy One of Heaven came down to do what we could not do for ourselves.

The author, Max Lucado wrote a short story where he imagined the essence of God being transported to the womb of the young woman, Mary.
The angels were astounded that the Holy One would humble Himself to such an extent and become a man.

God knew it was the only way to rescue us.

When each of my four sons was born and I held them for the first time, I envisioned a future of unlimited possibilities, yet all uncertain and beyond my knowing.

When the Heavenly Father looked down on His Son taking up residence as a little newborn, human baby He envisioned His future and it was not uncertain at all.  It was preordained, set as if in stone.  He had sent Him to be the atonement for man’s sin.

That little baby in the manger grew into a man, who walked this earth to leave us an example to follow and then allowed Himself, ALLOWED HIMSELF! To be placed on a Cross to atone for our sins.   
Imagine the Father seeing His Son mistreated and ultimately placed on that Cross.  His love for us restrained Him from breaking through and interceding for His Son!

When I look on the Nativity now I see much more than a Babe in that manger.

I see:
The love of God.  John 3:16 reads,
"For God so love the world (that means each and every one of us!) that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life!"

Such sacrifice!  I do not know that I could offer up one of my sons.

I also see:
The One promised, of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke in this often quoted verse,
“For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His Name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace!

Let’s unwrap this verse!
Our Savior longs for us to experience Him as the most wonderful of Counselors…  He has never failed to guide me through all these years.  He gives life-giving counsel.

He calls us to experience Him as Mighty in our lives…  I first experienced His power when I came to Him and He taught me to begin to breathe.  And over and over He has demonstrated how Mighty He is in my life and that of my family. 

Oh to grow in our understanding of the fact that He was, is and will always be…the Eternal GOD-our Father!
And to enjoy the peace that only He offers; a peace the world has no understanding of - peace with God.

I see even more, for you see I have read the whole Book!
And I have encountered Him on every page.
He has not stayed on the page though!  He has come to live in and with me!

I see the Living One, Holy and Glorious, who is worthy of all worship.

He is worthy to be praised for who He is before we even consider what He has done for us…. what we could never do for ourselves!

He has opened the way for us to have a relationship with the Living God!

 God is perfect and He cannot look upon sin or be in relationship with one who is stained with sin, but He so desires to be able to that He made the ultimate sacrifice!

So, Yes, relationship!  Not just entry into Heaven, but friendship with the One Who dwells there!

A relationship that begins here on earth with the One who will never leave us nor forsake us!  He promised and He keeps His promises.

The Bible is not just full of promises of a Savior, but promises of an abundant, joy-filled life through that Savior.

True love seeks to bless and that is exactly how God loves us with blessing upon blessing!

I do not have the time to enumerate all that is ours in Jesus; I don’t even know it all!  But The Father (Papa) and I have a gift for you, if you choose to accept it!  If you do, remember to unwrap it and begin exploring!

He gave me a Christmas devotional.  It is based on the 12 days of Christmas to be read one day at a time.   It focuses on some of the many gifts that our True Love offers us. I will be posting these thoughts here on a daily basis beginning on December 24th, Christmas Eve.  If you are interested in exploring more fully what the Lover of our souls offers us then please check back here.  

It is hard to wrap our minds around the fact that we are the object of God’s love, but it is true!

A friend of mine puts it this way, “Our God loves us so much that He wants us back!”  
And He went to great lengths in His pursuit of us.

Jesus told the parable of the Lost Sheep to illustrate how all of Heaven rejoices when one who was lost is found.

He followed it up with the story of the Prodigal Son, who, enticed by the world, had left his Father and squandered his inheritance.

Every day the Father watched for his son hopeful that one day he would return.
That day came and when the Father spotted His son in the distance, He did a much undignified thing for a man in those days.  He hiked up His robe and ran!!  To meet the child He loved.

The son hoped that he would be accepted as a servant by his Father. He came empty-handed with nothing to offer to atone for all he had squandered.
Instead he was embraced as the child he was and immediately clothed in a beautiful robe and rings on his fingers, after which his Father threw a big party!  He had to- after all He had His child back!

What do you think the son’s response was to his Father?  He had humbly come to Him in repentance and I am certain that all he could do in response to such amazing, unconditional love was love the Father back!

We could insert our name into the story and it would be just as true.  We are treasured by our Heavenly Father and He waits and watches for us to return to Him, for He longs to be in an intimate relationship with us!  And when we do come humbly in repentance and encounter that Amazing Love...well, all we can do is love Him back!

The gift is offered, it is up to us to receive it to ourselves, unwrap it and begin the life-long discovery of all that it means for us.

John 1:12 says,
“To as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His Name.”

For those who have not received this gift, I urge you not to end this night without doing so. 

Be responsible for another party breaking out in Heaven! 

For those of us who have received this precious gift, let us not cheat ourselves or our Savior out of the continued discovery of all He has for us.

First Corinthians 2:9 tells us, 
“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

I can attest that this is so true!

 The Father is watching and waiting for each one of us to unwrap His Great Gift either for the first time or for a fresh look.  He can’t wait to see the look on our faces!

Let me end with the words to a song by the group “Downhere.”
"Follow the star to a place unexpected Would you believe, after all we've projected,  A child in a manger? Lowly and small, the weakest of all Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother's shawl - Just a child - Is this who we've waited for? 'cause... [ Lyrics from: ] How many kings step down from their thrones? How many lords have abandoned their homes? How many greats have become the least for me? And how many gods have poured out their hearts To romance a world that is torn all apart How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior All that we have, whether costly or meek Because we believe. Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure And myrrh for the cross he will suffer Do you believe? Is this who we've (you've) waited for?"

Let's pray!

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