Glory in a Box

A Story of Christmas Present

It’s that time of year when the trees go up in the church foyer, and the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes get stacked, and I stand in the green fluorescence of Dollar Tree, and everything on the shelves is plastic and off-brand, and I wonder if the kid getting my box will know it. It sounds terribly like Scrooge, but I wonder if it’s worth it. I get back to my car and start squeezing things into the shoebox and realize it isn’t even big enough to hold the stuffed monkey I found. I wonder how much love and joy there can be in plastic trucks and stickers.

If I’m honest, I wonder how Jesus himself can possibly fit inside and fill a shoebox. It feels too small for him, and maybe that’s because the world is so big with cuts that run so deep. A stuffed monkey seems like a smiley-face sticker on a chest wound. Jesus, can you really use this, redeem the cardboard, fill this box with enough glory to heal the nations?

But I’m learning that’s where incarnation comes in, because the manger was a box, wasn’t it?

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

~ Luke 2:7

John says that the Word-In-Flesh came to his own people, but they did not recognize him, and one reason is that the Jews weren’t looking for flesh. They were looking for something billowy to fill the temple— not something squirmy to fill a manger. They had big hopes, and rightly so; God is endlessly big. And yet God often pours his glory into the smallest, most ordinary spaces. Before the manger, it was Mary’s womb, and before that, it was a box called the Ark of the Covenant, and before that, it was a 45-foot by 15-foot tent. Even Solomon’s Temple was a box, just draped in gold.

Jesus came down, the glory of God nestled in a straw box, and so I have to believe that Jesus can come right into my Dollar Tree cart and fill my box of plastic toys with his holy love for the nations. I also have to believe that he doesn’t only fill shoeboxes. Just now, I’m sitting in the corner of the kitchen and thinking about how he fills this space, too. There’s glory in the winter sunlight, glory in the dishes, glory in the meal mom has labored over since lunch.

Francis Schaeffer said: “As there are no little people in God’s sight, so there are no little places,”{i} and Wendell Berry echoed that “There are no unsacred places.”

Incarnation lets us see God filling the smallest places— even a place as small as a box.

I sat on the front row at church a few weeks ago and looked over the stacked boxes, red and green and red and green. The one in my arms kept popping open because that stuffed monkey was too stuffed. Other boxes were strapped with rubber bands to keep the lids shut, because the love of God’s people was making the cardboard bulge with monkeys and slinkies, pencils and books— with Jesus Incarnate, with Glory Himself.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory…”  ~ John 1:14

{i} Francis A. Schaeffer, No Little People (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2003 [originally pub. 1974]).

2 thoughts on “Glory in a Box

  1. I love sending off shoeboxes too, and every year, I hope and wonder — will we match up box senders and receivers in heaven? Among the many glories, will we meet and laugh and celebrate the grace that flowed from one to another, as a flowing from the Greatest Giver?

    Liked by 1 person

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