When my dad, Chuck Swindoll, was a kid, he found under the Christmas tree a pleasantly wrapped package with his name on it . . . and he did what every kid does. With no one looking, he quietly picked it up, smelled it, took a good look at its wrapping, and shook it—hoping for a clue to its contents.
As a kid, Dad loved to play sports. He had always wanted his very own bright orange basketball. The wrapped present was just the right size. (He had measured to be sure!) A basketball was the only thing on his wish list. My dad’s imagination skyrocketed: in slow motion just shy of the free-throw line, the ball glides through the air in a perfect arc, and—SWOOSH!—nothin’ but net. The buzzer rings, the crowd roars, game won.
Christmas morning finally came. My dad raced into the room, ripped open the present, and found a bright BLUE world globe . . . I kid you not. A WORLD GLOBE. It was thoroughly shocking and terribly disappointing. What part of his one request had his parents missed?
Like my dad years ago, most of us have had disappointing experiences a time or two. Handling those experiences with maturity means getting past disappointments and adjusting our expectations . . . which is much easier to do with Christmas gifts than it is in the Christian life, isn’t it? How many times have I had one simple request? How many times have I wondered if God was paying attention? After all, my one simple request was a good, great, helpful, healing, even heavenly-focused request: just for starters, how about relief for my son’s pain?
Yet, God has chosen differently. There’s more pain, more difficulties, more disappointment, and—like receiving a world globe when a basketball was asked for—more questions: Where’s the return receipt? Where’s the customer service? I’m outta here. Let’s be honest: I’ve thought, Where are You, God? You’ve thought it too, I bet.
The Reality of God’s Christmas Gift
For a moment, set aside all the holiday hoopla and consider the most unexpected and unlikely conditions surrounding the birth of Christ—the Christian’s ultimate Gift celebrated at Christmas.
Let’s start with Mary. Her circumstances were a bit less than celebratory. An unknown, young girl, engaged to an unknown, hardworking guy, showed up pregnant. She told people that an angel told her the “Holy Spirit” was the father of the baby she was carrying—and oh, by the way, the baby was going to be the Savior of the world. Mary was pregnant but had never had sex . . . and she was hearing voices and seeing an angel! Even the most empathetic listener would be a little concerned, right?
Then Joseph, who had the customary right to toss her to the wind or have her stoned to death said he also was visited by an angel, who told him to believe Mary. He did. “Birds of a feather” . . . even today we would think they were crazy. But instead of pleading for a better gift, Mary sang praises to God in the midst of profoundly life-threatening circumstances. And it got worse. She then had to travel on a donkey days before her due date. When she arrived at her destination, she delivered the “Gift,” our Savior, in a foul-smelling, animal-filled, cave-like stable and laid Him in a feeding trough.
God’s gifts often come to us in ways we’d never expect—as world globes when we’re looking for basketballs.
What is your “world globe” these days? What “one simple request” have you lifted to our Lord, just to find in the torn wrappings an answer more different and difficult than you ever expected? How do you deal with less than ideal circumstances that might be life-threatening or life-taking? In Mary’s story, her Son died—don’t forget that part.
Sometimes God allows things to die in our lives: good dreams, cherished possessions, loving people. Death is never easy—but God is good. We don’t know what good may come of God’s will; we have to trust the end will be heavenly . . . and it will.
Let Me Hear from You
Who would have known when my dad was 9 or 10 years old that his voice would one day ring around the world, offering truth and hope to the hurting? That world globe no longer represents an unmet desire; it represents a life God has used in miraculous ways all around the world.
So it is with you. Your world globe is a gift from God; will you trust in the One who gave it to you? Are you praising God or pleading for another gift? Don’t let this year pass without recognizing that sometimes God’s gifts are different than we expected. For a moment, look to God—the Giver of the gift—and not the gift; there is a purpose for what God’s given. What “world globes” have you unwrapped lately? I would love to hear from you.
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