As a kid, I remember the unbelievable excitement of the night-before-Christmas. I’d spend all day looking at the clock, feverishly wishing the hands would move faster, so I could go to bed. Because after just one more sleep, we’d dreamily descend the stairs to see what treasures were stacked under the Christmas tree. Would it be a bike? A computer? A game we-so-desperately wanted?
As an adult, there’s no 4.30am starts now and present-opening is a much more civilised affair, but there’s still that smidge of sparkling anticipation to see if I got what I asked for.
But sometimes, the gift-givers don’t get it right. In years gone by, I’ve dropped huge hints, left magazines open at the ‘right’ page and still they don’t ‘get’ it. A few years ago, I was the recipient of a treasure trove of really weird presents. I’m not complaining (I mean, loads of people have absolutely nothing), but seriously, a fluffy rabbit’s foot keyring? (I was a vegetarian at the time). A pair of plaid slippers with fleecy lining, suitable for someone about 50 years older? A ‘cute’ fluffy toy with creepy eyes that followed you around the room? Yup…you get the drift.
Jesus knew all about inappropriate presents. When the wise men turned up to celebrate his birth, they brought Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. A block of gold? Embalming spices? ‘Well, thank you for the thought…’ Mary must have thought. But perhaps she wondered why they didn’t bring something a bit more practical? You don’t give a box of spices to a new born baby. Where’s the practical things? How about some money to help make life just a little easier?
On the surface, they seemed like completely inappropriate gifts. But looking back now, theologians tell us that each of those gifts was a prophecy, a symbol of the life that was to come for the new born king.
But it made me think more deeply about the gifts we bring to Jesus. Sometimes we feel as though we have to approach God in our (metaphorical) best Sunday suit, carting cheerfully-stacked boxes of thankfulness, happy-clappy Christian joy and a permanent smile. But what if he wants all the ‘inappropriate’ gifts too? What if he wants our fear, loneliness, our bone-shaking weariness? All the things that no one else sees, but all the things that are, on the surface, deeply inappropriate as ‘gifts’?
Because actually, that’s what we’re told (lots of times) to do.
Come to me, every one of you who is tired and weary’.
In other words;
Bring your anxieties to me. Your fears, your stresses, your dramas, your shockingly awful health problems, your lack of money, your inability to cope or fix things. Your worries about the future, your fears for your kids, your misery, your grief, everything that is stressing you out.
On a human level, they make make pretty terrible presents, but that’s what the Saviour of the world came to do. He wants, accepts and is more than willing to carry all of our thankfulness and gratitude, as well as our ‘inappropriate gifts’.
It’s why He was born.
It’s why He died; to take all the stuff we just can’t handle on our own.