Summary: Forrest Gump's mother said: "life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get." Sometimes you don't even get what the box says is in it.

Great Gifts in Unexpected Boxes

A Christmas Meditation

I like to buy my wife extravagant gifts for Christmas…like socks. You might laugh, but I’m not talking just any socks. I’m talking heavy winter socks, thick socks. You know, the kind where a single sock can block a dryer vent. Besides she likes socks. They’re on her list every year. She likes to be warm.

The only problem with socks is if you just wrap the socks, she knows what’s in the package. I mean, even laying on the floor under the tree, you can tell they’re socks from across the room. The package just screams, “There are socks in here.” And if there’s any doubt at all, you can erase it by going over and picking up the package. As soon as you pick the package up one end goes limp and you think, yep, “it’s socks.”

What’s the point of wrapping socks if you can tell from the other side of the room they’re socks? So I like to disguise the socks and put them in something that’s not so obvious, like a box. In fact, the more deceptive the box the better. I want the suspense to last as long as possible. I guess it’s the Grinch in me but I find a temporary sense of disappointment; is beneficial to heightening the thrill when she discovers she has, in fact, received her much-desired socks. I was tempted to put this year’s socks in an old King Edward cigar box I found in the house this year. Imagine her unwrapping the package and the first sight being a King Edward cigar box. Vickie doesn’t smoke cigars. She gave them up when we got married.

Of course, soon enough she’ll find that in spite of the fact that the package was disguised, it really contained exactly what she needed. Soft, warm socks.

Life is a little like that, isn’t it? Or as Forrest Gump famously stated, “Mama always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” In fact, sometimes, you don’t even get what the box says you’re getting. The package is disguised.

The Jewish people were promised a Messiah for centuries. The Israelite sacrificial practices were a foreshadowing of a savior, even thousands of years before Jesus’ birth. They didn’t understand that until after Jesus death and resurrection. But those practices, spelled out in so much detail in God’s command to the Israelites were a gift of God’s great mercy upon his people in a box that concealed a simpler, yet much greater gift—God’s salvation one day to come simply by accepting Christ.

Yet even the gift of this savior was not easily visible in the packages in which he was delivered. He came wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. Odd packaging for the King of Kings, don’t you think? And who would have thought that the Lord of Lords would have been inhabiting the body of the humblest of servants? Or that the conqueror of death, one day to be clothed in majesty, would be stripped from his clothes and crucified on a cross.

A manger and a cross. Humility and death. Strange gifts. But we receive them on Christmas knowing that their true contents, to be revealed on Easter, will be both the gift we need the most, salvation; the gift we want the most, eternal life.

Just as they tell us something about the life of Jesus, so too, they reveal something about our own lives. Not only do God’s blessings not always come in the packages we expect; they often come in packages we don’t want.

Laura Story wrote a song entitled “Blessings.” One part of the song goes like this. “We pray for blessings, we pray for peace, comfort for family, protection while we sleep. We pray for healing, for prosperity, we pray for your mighty hand to ease our suffering. All the while, you hear each spoken need. Yet love is way too much, to give us lesser things. ‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops, what if your healing comes through tears, what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near. What if the trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?

Whatever God has placed in our lives; or permitted in our lives this year, it is his intent that in some way they bless us. Maybe life is more like a box of Legos than a box of chocolates; what we get out of it is what we make of it. What God wants us to have is him, and anything and everything we receive; regardless of the package it comes in, is intended to give us what we really need… Him. Everything else is a lesser thing.

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