Summary: This is my Christmas 2018 message. It's about having an intimate relationship with Jesus versus having a superficial relationship with Him.
The Gift Is In The Box
In 2017 I did a series entitled “It’s Time to Grow Up.” In that series I shared with you the differences between a mature Christian and one that is not mature. One of the foundation Scriptures was found in Proverbs 20:11 which say “It is by his deeds that a child distinguishes himself, if his conduct is pure and right.” I told you in that series that a child distinguishes him/herself by how they act – by their conduct and that we label children by how they act – good, bad, respectful, disrespectful, etc. Those labels are based on the actions of the child. We do the same for the child like actions of adults; when we see characteristics of a child being exhibited in an adult we call their behavior “childish.” As it relates to acting childish it speaks to a lack of maturity and/or growth. In that series I gave you examples of childish behaviors that would be normal for a child but abnormal for an adult. This morning I want you to reflect on the learnings from that series as I add one more example of a childish behavior that would be normal for a child but abnormal for an adult.
The title of my message this morning is “The Gift is in the Box.” First Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” When I was a child, as most children do, I enjoyed playing with empty boxes. The bigger the box the more use you got from it. With an empty box you can use your imagination to create all sorts of things. You can have a fort; a house; a car; the possibilities are endless. If you have ever seen a small child on Christmas morning opening their presents and discarding the gift within the box so they can play with the empty box then you know what I am talking about. This is normal behavior for a small child. The empty box becomes whatever they want it to be as they immediately start playing with the box. Those kids are actually happier with the box versus the gift that was in it. This can be frustrating for the parent as you spent hours in the stores looking for that special gift for your toddler when in reality all you had to do was give them was an empty box. So what do we do as parents? Instead of sitting there and watching our children exhibit pure joy while playing with the empty box, we try to force them to play with the gift that came in the box. We pick it up and start playing with it ourselves hoping that our interest in it will help our child start playing (and appreciate) the gift. That toy, for a moment, may capture their eyes because we are playing with it but it is short lived as their eyes continually roam back to the empty box.
I cannot tell you this based on any scientific fact why those empty boxes are so important for a child but I can tell you that when a child plays with an empty box, that empty box becomes whatever that child wants that box to be. It could be anything in the eyes of that child. I never liked Sponge Bob Square Pants, but one of my daughters loved him. There was an episode on that show where Sponge Bob and his friend Patrick were in an empty box and you could hear the sound of machine guns and aircraft carriers coming from the box. Another friend, Squidward, walks up to the box and sees them sitting in the otherwise empty box. He asks where all of the noise was coming from and Sponge Bob says “Imagination.” All an empty box needs to become anything to a child is the child’s imagination. But what about the gift that came in the box? It does not take a lot of imagination to play with the gift that came in the box because whatever it is it can only be what it was made to be. The gift inside the box can only be that one thing – the thing it was created to be. The toy can be played with in make believe scenarios, but it’s still a particular toy. The toy is what it is – like it or not. Unlike the empty box, you can’t make changes to the toy and all of a sudden it becomes something else unless you’re playing with the Transformers and even then the options are limited. If you give a child a doll in a box, the doll is a doll. The child can dress the doll up in different clothes but it’s still a doll. Now the empty box that the doll came in is only limited by the imagination of the child playing with the box. This, my friends, is childlike behavior that is perfectly normal for a child. This behavior is not normal for an older teenager or an adult.