For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6
Boxes are an interesting recurring theme in North American life. We live in elaborate boxes, chopped up into smaller boxes (bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms etc.). Then we have other large boxes – attics and garages – where we keep boxes and more boxes containing other stuff we have, but don’t actually use. Some of us even keep still more of our boxes in dedicated, air-conditioned, box colonies known as mini-storage units. Then we move around – in large part – from box to box in motorized boxes with wheels.
It is, as Yul Brynner (the King of Siam) famously sings in The King and I, “A puzzlement….”
But around the beginning of Advent, boxes begin to take on more poignant, and magical properties.
- Boxes carried down from the attic promise festive decoration;
- boxes arriving on the doorstep invite speculation;
- boxes placed under the tree are loaded with expectation;
- boxes become transformed into symbols of anticipation.
Instead of being “boxed up” and stored away, packages are thrown open, their contents promising joy, and laughter, and love, and generosity, and invitation. Christmas is an open box; and – like the open tomb – its message cannot be contained, cannot be put away, cannot be confined, cannot be hemmed in.
And yet we do. And so many of us stuff it all back into boxes, sometime right after brunch on Christmas morning, consigning Jesus – along with those temporarily open spirits – back to the top shelf, or the attic, or some other storage facility, taped shut for another year.
Let it loose!
I simply don’t understand it! Once let loose, once claimed, once accepted, once engaged – this anticipation can so easily move into revelation, and transformation, and we can live into the promise of this New Life… and we need never be the same again!
But all this anticipation turns out to be nothing more than wishful thinking if we fail to live into the promise of Jesus. “So if anyone is in Christ,” Paul writes, “there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Absent an encounter with the Living Christ, Christmas remains a sweet story, with warm overtones of cultural nostalgia, something you really do put back in a box and stuff in the attic till next year. That narrative is neither real, nor worthy of much anticipation.
Absent an encounter with the Living Christ, Christmas remains a sweet story, with warm overtones of cultural nostalgia, something you really do put back in a box and stuff in the attic till next year.
Which Christmas story are you anticipating? Nostalgia (with a little eggnog) or transformation (with the bread and the wine)? – DEREK