Last Tuesday, in "Decorating for Christmas, Part 4", we saw that our "decorating crew" can help us that we are all part of God's family, a privilege provided for us by Jesus' ultimate gift at Christmas.

With the house all decorated, only one thing remained: Wrapping the presents.

Under my tree, there are many different kinds of wrappings:

1. The gifts from my son were bought pre-wrapped. They are beautiful and perfect.

2. There are also gift bags for items that don't easily fit in a box, as well as from those who know they are not "gifted" with the ability to make packages look pretty.

3. There are other packages from those who were gifted with that ability, and these look like works of art. Far too pretty to be opening!

4. There are envelopes in the branches of the Christmas tree, holding gift cards from this place or that.

5. Finally, there are the packages I wrapped. I'm in the category of people who were not "gifted" with the ability to make packages look pretty; yet I'm not smart enough to realize it...

My cat is no respecter of packages, and she is sure that all those pretty ribbons and bows are for her. She rips them off and carries them around the house, playing them as she would a mouse. After Christmas each year, it is quite interesting to see the unique places the bows on the once-pretty packages have gotten to: In potted plants, under couches and chairs, in dark corners of the basement, to name a few. As a result of my cat, when I hand out packages from underneath the Christmas tree each year, I do it with an apology attached, as well as a finger pointing...at the cat!

There are usually a couple of packages that the cat doesn't find, however, and I am always proud to hand these out. But then, I must stand by and look with horror as all that beautiful art-work is torn away in a matter of seconds...

My mind also goes back to the years we've played tricks on each other at Christmas time. A giant, beautifully-wrapped box is placed under the tree, but it only contains a note, or perhaps a series of smaller, beautifully-wrapped boxes, or maybe nothing at all! I remember once when I was sure I was getting a pair of roller skates for Christmas, and that roller-skate-shaped, heavy box was the proof; only to be completely disappointed to open the package and find someone had wrapped up a brick...

It makes you think, doesn't it? It truly isn't the wrapping that matters at all; rather, it is the gift inside, and with this in mind, I must ask the question: does it truly matter what a package looks like on the outside?

Jesus spoke often of this, and His comments were far from complementary: "...You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matt 23:27-28).

In other words, we can be like Christmas presents that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of bricks and empty boxes. We may look righteous to people, but inside we may be full of hypocrisy and lawlessness!

We can find references in the Old Testament to things that look pretty on the outside but inside are full of rot: "...When anyone builds a wall without mortar, they coat it with whitewash. Tell the ones who coat it with whitewash that it will fall...When the wall has collapsed, people will ask you, 'Where is the whitewash you coated it with?" (Ez 13:10-12)

What does the Lord do with "whitewashed walls without morter" and "whitewashed tombs"?

"Therefore this is what the sovereign LORD says: 'In my rage I will make a violent wind break out...I will break down the wall you coated with whitewash and knock it to the ground so that its foundation is exposed. When it falls you will be destroyed beneath it, and you will know that I am the LORD. I will vent my rage against the wall, and against those who coated it with whitewash...'" (Ez 13:13-15).

As you prepare the packages to go under the tree this year, remember: It isn't the wrapping paper and bow that count, and it isn't even the gift bags or the ribbons. What counts is what is inside the package. In the same way, it doesn't matter how "righteous" we look and act on the outside. It is what is inside our hearts that God sees, and it is this that truly matters. When we unwrap our packages this Christmas, let's all agree to pray the following prayer: Lord, make me beautiful...From the inside out!

But wait a minute: With all the concern and effort being put into the decoration of our homes for Christmas, are we overlooking perhaps the most important part of decoration for Christmas? Are we neglecting the decoration of our hearts? Join us on Saturday for "Decorating for Christmas, Conclusion".

In His love,
Lyn

Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author -- "Aboard God's Train -- A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer", Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.

(To access the entire "Decorating for Christmas" mini-series, please click here.)