The Wrapped Gift
Christmas Eve is way better than Christmas Day. Anticipation is almost always better than the thing anticipated. Most of the time, the wrapped present under the tree is far superior to the unwrapped thing we stuff in a drawer within a few days.
A wrapped present is a symbol of hope. An unwrapped present is an object that was manufactured at a factory in China. A wrapped present is mystery, an unwrapped present is utility. A wrapped present is joy while an unwrapped present is a mere commodity. When I look at those gifts shrouded in colorful paper and bows, I feel that I am catching a glimpse of heaven. Nothing you buy at the mall will ever compare with heaven; the gift you receive will never measure up to the hope that came before.
Now imagine if the gift really was better than the expectation. That would be miraculous. You think you are in for another pair of socks but there is that you really wanted. Heaven is like that. It is something we hope for, but it far surpasses the hope we have. St. John the Revelator uses all kinds of images for heaven. He talks about gates made from pearl and streets paved with gold. He uses these images because they are the most precious things we can imagine. The reality of heaven will be even greater. I am confident that the anticipation of the expectant Church will be far surpassed by the joy that is coming to her.
When Christ came as a baby, the angels sang his praises to a limited number of shepherds. When Christ returns, everything in heaven and on earth will sing his praise. No one will need to point the way to him, no one will need to seek him out. No one will miss that wonderful event, as most of the world missed his birth. Upon his return He will be as obvious as the Sun on a cloudless day, as loud as thunder that has come too close.
How we will greet Christ depends in part on how we live in the ongoing Advent season of our daily lives. If we are not watching, not waiting, then I expect we are in for a rude awakening. If we are waiting with fear, trying to make sure we are doing enough to earn his favor, I expect we will be in for disappointment. People like that will be displeased to see the last being made first. If we are waiting with hope, as a child looking on box wrapped in paper and bows, I believe that the joy we find will far exceed our expectations.
Today is Christmas Eve. This Advent is nearly over. The great Advent of our lives continues on, each and every day until all days finally end. Let’s welcome Christmas Day with joy this year. Let’s receive it as a beautiful gift. But let’s also keep our eyes open, for that final Gift will come when we least expect Him.