This past Christmas our youth got together to not just prepare a Christmas program for the nursing home but to also raise funds to purchase devotionals from Joni and Friends ministry for gifts. One of the highlights of our practice was spending an hour wrapping each book. Some came out better than others! Did you ever stop to wonder where we came up with the idea of gift wrapping? Isn’t the gift itself what people really want? I think it all comes down to presentation and that is something even God chose to do when he sent Jesus to that manger in Bethlehem!
but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:7-8
In a strange sort of way Jesus was God, gift wrapped! Before you think we are straying into some strange teaching pause to think of some reasons we have for gift wrapping. First we wrap up a gift to keep it a surprise. In that same way Jesus came to that humble stable of Bethlehem as a baby. From the outside no one could see who He was. It took angels telling the shepherds to get an audience for His birth! God came gift wrapped in humanity. The Father chose this way so that only those whose hearts were humble could know what the gift was.
Another reason for wrapping is to say. “Here I prepared this just for you!” In that same way Jesus was sent, not only for the whole world, but also for each one of us individually. Just as he sat by the well for one woman and went to the pool of Bethesda for one man, so also He gives Himself to each of us one by one.
Some of us open presents on Christmas Eve and others Christmas morning but for all of us the gifts are wrapped and sitting under the tree because it makes us wait till the right time to open them.
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law Galatians 4:4
You might remember that God also came down on Mount Sinai during the Exodus story. But it was not the right time for the gift to be opened. People were terrified. No one could approach the mountain and Moses was only allowed to glimpse God after He had passed by and was going away. But at just the right time Jesus came, the gift was presented and we by faith could begin to unwrap the fullness of the love God in Jesus Christ.
Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. Luke 10:31-34 NKJV
The man who fell among thieves is a lot like that of the residents in any nursing home. The thieves that caught him by surprise go by various names, such as age, physical disability or disease. People fall into a system where they lose control of their finances, their health and their personal freedom.
Three different people came by the man that day. The first was a priest. He came from a good family, had chosen to dedicate himself to God’s work and was recognized as a leader in his community. But in spite of his opportunity to show God’s mercy, that day he failed. He passed by, saw the need but chose not to get involved. The second man was only a follower of the first, so he simply took the same path – the path of least resistance. Last in line came the Samaritan. This was the man from whom no one expected any help. But when the Samaritan passed by that place, he saw the need, rolled up his sleeves and got involved. He became a neighbor when he became a part of the injured man’s world…
Nursing homes are filled with suffering and it is easy and convenient to hide from it. We hide because we are afraid of the answers we do have have for why God would allow suffering. One part of rolling up our sleeves like the Samaritan is to understand not the “why” of suffering but the “How can I show the love of God” in the middle of sometimes desperate situations in people’s lives. In this short video Joni shares her unique viewpoint on suffering.
“God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves” Joni Eareckson Tada
Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones, for I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father. Matthew 18:10
They are just helpless sheep and a good opportunity to exploit to a wolf. But to the owner of the sheep they are precious and worth defending. They are worth being cared for. They are worth something unexplainable, that links them to the Shepherd.
That is exactly what our Father sees when he looks behind the walls of our modern nursing home. Though the residents may seem to be of little value to our fast paced consumer culture, they are of infinite worth to God. If we will treat these little lambs with kindness their angels will see. Remember that God’s takes special delight in His weakest lambs!