By Tyson Thorne

December 25, 2017

Wide-eyed wonder. That’s how the storybooks usually describe children after having awoken on Christmas morning and catching their first glimpse of the presents under the tree. It strikes a chord in all of us, because we’ve all been there. The anticipation was built over several weeks, each day Christmas drawing nearer. Seasonal music is everywhere, spirits were lifted – even in the adults – and everyone smiled a little easier. Then the day came. Finally! Christmas! We raced to the tree anxious to tear into every package with our name on it. What did we get this year?

As a child we have an understanding of the real meaning of Christmas. We hear the stories about the baby Jesus and his humble entrance into the world but, and let’s be honest here, it’s mostly about the presents. And that’s perfectly fine, because we’re talking about kids and kids are anxious to play. Where the gift came from is a distant second to what the gift is, and how imagination can bring it to life. I’m not sure when we grow out of that stage, but eventually we all do. Eventually the focus shifts, and the present isn’t as important as the person who gave it.

Growing up is natural. Rare is the adult that gets excited about the presents under the tree. It’s why we laugh at Will Farrell in the movie Elf when he hears Santa is coming to his store and he starts screaming in wild excitement. It’s not normal for adults to stay focused on the stories and the presents. Such a person would be considered immature.

The same could be said of our spiritual life. Spiritual maturity is something most Christians desire, and that many never achieve. We may have made a commitment to Jesus decades ago, but we still focus on the gifts God gives us rather than on the gift-giver. When we receive good gifts from God – a promotion or raise, a new relationship or a restored one, a dream fulfilled – we are just like the wide-eyed child whose focus is on the toy. When life hits us hard -- with the death of a loved one, a diagnosed disease, the loss of a job or other hardship – we look to God sadly wondering where our miracle gift is. Unfortunately, this kind of immaturity isn’t as funny as Will Farrell’s.

If that last paragraph describes someone you know, it’s time to help them mature. God does give us wonderful, amazing, miraculous gifts throughout our lives, but if all we do is focus on the gifts we miss the most important part of life – a relationship with the Gift-Giver. Spending time in prayer of adoration is one way to adjust our focus. We can still appreciate all God does for us and love God for who he is at the same time. As we “grow up” though, we find that the gifts matter less and less, and that our relationship with God means more and more. That’s spiritual maturity.

Growing up isn’t easy, but there are factors in life that force us into adulthood. Growing up spiritually is different. I could put the onus on the individual, and state that it takes discipline and commitment and a sense of personal mission to become a mature follower of Jesus – all of which is true – but it’s more than that too. Spiritual maturity, just like normal growth, requires family. We need examples to follow, sibling rivalries, fatherly advice, and the encouragement of aunts and uncles. That’s what church is all about. It’s more than a Sunday sermon, it’s a family of believer’s responsible for bringing us up in Christ.

I became a servant of the church according to the stewardship from God – given to me for you – in order to complete the word of God, that is, the mystery that has been kept hidden from ages and generations, but has now been revealed to his saints. God wanted to make known to them the glorious riches of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him by instructing and teaching all people with all wisdom so that we may present every person mature in Christ. – Colossians 1.25-28

This Christmas, enjoy the gifts, but may your focus be on the Great Gift-Giver. Merry Christmas, from