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At Christmas time, like many families, mine gathered together and for the first time, we had a baby in our midst. My brother and his wife are the proud parents of 11-month-old Madysen. She is a very curious and extremely happy little girl – in fact it is rare to see her unhappy. While we were exchanging gifts on Christmas morning, I had the privilege to help her open some of her gifts. She seemed far more interested in the shiny paper, the ribbons and bows than she was with the actual gifts.

As Hilary and I were driving home later that day, I began to recall the images of seeing the curiosity in Madysen’s face as she ripped packages apart. I began to wonder if she understood what was going on or when she would realize that the outside is just to cover up the surprise awaiting to be revealed.

Do we get caught up with the same distractions of the wrapping paper? In our journey, do the shiny ribbons and bows sidetrack us from the real gift inside? How often has God given us a gift and we have not taken the time to dig deeper to see the precious pearl that is really there?

We live, work and operate in a shopper society – everything is designed strategically to appeal to us; sales and promotions are planned to draw us in. On occasion, the Church has fallen into the same the pattern – designing outreaches to be appealing and attractive; courses or seminars with challenging topics or investing in the cosmetics of the building. Many would argue that we do these things to stay relevant with the times. But are we getting distracted with the coverings?

I’ve wondered what it would have looked like for Jesus and the apostles to gather to design or strategize on their campaign to reach people. I think we can lose sight of a great gift that the Church has to offer. Relationships, I think, are one of the hardest and yet most rewarding gifts we can have. When we are kids, our parents schedule play-dates for us to interact and meet new people – a few toys and a sandbox. In our programming and redecorating, we need to be conscious of relationships.

Many are familiar with Matt Redman’s song, “When The Music Fades”. This song came out of a season at his church where they had been caught in the wrapping paper. They spent a few Sunday gatherings without any music and with simple intercession, to be reminded of what this is all about. Out of this, the song birthed, as a reminder that when we tear the wrappings away, our relationship with Jesus is at the center.

When we understand that relationships are vitally important to Jesus, we begin to see that our relationships with people are important to Jesus as well. The people we work with, in the building next door and those at the table across the restaurant from us.

When we grow older, we begin to realize that the paper and ribbons are just a covering for the real gift on the inside – and we rip open the paper with excitement. With that same excitement we need to begin to rip open the coverings that prevent us from building those relationships. David MacFarlane would say that we need to, “cross the street”. I would add that we need to shake hands too, have a conversation – and get to know one another.

Jesus saw the opportunity to meet people and, through that, lives were transformed. Who is waiting to meet you?

Shawn Branch
Acting National Director
Threshold Ministries

This article was originally written for an Equipping Evangelists newsletter – January 2012.