Editor’s Note: In a nod to our Presbyterian heritage, we regularly feature a column from a PMMA® chaplain in our newsletter. This month’s column comes from Greg Schmidt, chaplain at Newton Presbyterian Manor.
By Greg Schmidt
When my three boys were little, we looked forward to participating in our church’s Christmas Eve program and then racing home to open presents! We lived only a block from the church, so as soon as the “Amen!” was offered, the boys would sprint to the house rather than mess around waiting for their pastor-father and gracious mother to say, “Merry Christmas!” to all the parishioners who had attended the service and drive the car home.
As if they hadn’t already shaken them a thousand times trying to guess what was inside of them, the boys couldn’t wait to rip away the beautifully and carefully wrapped packages containing what my wife and I hoped would be exactly what they wanted. We seldom missed the target. It wasn’t until the oldest two were in their early 20s that we began hearing, “Um, did you keep the receipt?” and we knew it wasn’t quite what they were hoping for. But that’s a story for another article!
I wonder sometimes if God contemplated the excitement that would be generated with one special gift? Or did He, like us, get concerned with whether the gift would be accepted? Cherished? Used?
The present and presence of Jesus continues to shock me. Why would He leave the perfect throne room of heaven to identify with the grit and grime of my world? Why would He allow his mind and character to be soiled with our self-serving, perverted way of thinking or to be forced to communicate with our ridiculous and often confusing ways of thinking and talking?
I have to believe God/Jesus intentionally chose at least two things: First, to demonstrate just what love looks like. I know I follow better if I have an example! And second, to demonstrate what gift-giving and gift-receiving looks like. Again, the example!
There are times in our lives when running “home” to rip open a “present” is still so invigorating! We know our “Father” prepared it for us, and we can’t wait to see what it is and how it will work! I’ve run “home” to discover my children…a new job opportunity…a story from one of my kids, their wives or my grands…a new plant that someone delivered so I could add it to my ever-growing flower garden collection! And I’ve run “home” because my in-laws, my dad, and some of my dearest friends took their last breath…sometimes naturally, sometimes not. Or because one of my kids was in tears because they’d experienced their worst day ever, or someone received news of a challenging diagnosis and feared the impending surgeries or procedures that would follow.
And in both cases, you know what I’ve discovered? A Father who needed me to open the “present” and realize it was given in love and intended to strengthen my life, even if it wasn’t exactly what I’d asked for.
Throughout this holiday season I want to cherish, accept and use ALL of the “gifts” God has wrapped and laid under my tree. I still don’t always get why Jesus wanted to come here and identify with me. But I know He very much wanted to do so, and that I benefit so greatly because He did. And so do you! After all, God NEVER misses the target. Merry Christmas!