It’s fairly common for me to be part of a “white elephant” gift exchange around the Christmas holiday each year. The exchange is usually either cheap prank gifts or some used bit of kitsch around the house that a person is trying to get rid of. We choose numbers and take turns either picking an unwrapped gift from under the tree or stealing a “better” gift from someone who has already opened one. Generally, we leave with a lot of laughs and try to ditch our ridiculous gift at the host’s home. One thing I’ve discovered as a general rule of thumb when choosing a gift for one of these exchanges: the nicer the gift wrapping, the worse the gift.
We often judge the value of something and its benefits on what we see on the outside. Certainly, that is how the world has trained us to think and behave. The more well put together and externally beautiful, powerful, strong, or wise, the higher its esteem. That was probably what was so surprising about the coming of the Son of God as an infant.
In His birth narrative that we read today, we don’t find Jesus coming into the world in power, glory, and acclaim. He’s not descending from the emperor’s palace in Rome or stepping out of the temple in radiant glory from Jerusalem. The Son of God was born to a young woman who lived in an uninteresting, out-of-the-way village. The man who would be Jesus’s earthly father was not a powerful politician or a wealthy business magnate. He was a blue-collar worker, a tradesman who worked with his hands and had to make a decision about whether he would allow his reputation to be marred by marrying a young woman who was pregnant outside of marriage (Matthew 1:18–19).
Yet, as Paul stated, “God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world” (1Corinthians 1:27–28). Jesus’s coming into the world as a humble, weak, uninteresting, poor infant, born to the people everyone would overlook, was God’s wisdom to rescue weak, poor, overlooked, broken, and forgotten sinners.
It’s worth asking ourselves, Are we judging Christ on the externals, or do we really see Him for who He is? As Samuel told Jesse, “Humans do not see what the LORD sees, for humans see what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart” (1Samuel 16:7). Is it possible we are hoping that approval by our coworkers or community will save us? Are we ignoring Jesus as our only peace and instead looking for an elusive peace that will never come apart from Christ?
The humble birth of Jesus should cause us to pause and consider if we are judging the greatest gift of all only by the external wrappings of His humanity.