I think I'll just give up on Christmas presents this year. I bought my wife a little something I thought she would love, and now I know she loves it: because someone else already gave it to her. So I had to tell her that this was going to be her present, and now could you please suggest something else I could buy.
I bought my girls something I thought they might like, and then the oldest calls me and says, "I have a gift card to ________ and they are having a sale right now, and could you help me get online and buy _________?" (which was the gift I had already bought). So if I just said, "No, I won't help you buy that" I would sound like a mean cruel dad, but I wanted to try and keep the gift a secret... Aaaahhh! I had to say, "well what if someone already got..." and she yelled "hush, don't say anything else, never mind!" So much for surprises.
Then after my wife takes the youngest two out shopping, buying dad a little surprise along the way, my wife and I are talking about various things. At some point the subject becomes something that is similar to the gift they just bought, and forgetting that it was a surprise/gift, the youngest says, "Oh yeah, when are we going to set up the ____________?" Everyone freezes, my wife glares, I try to shush the boy, and he then realizes his mistake and runs to his room in tears. Nice. (for the record, we told him it was no big deal, and certainly not something to be that upset about; it was just an accident; no one is upset; etc. It's all good)
Keeping secrets. At this time of year it's pretty common. People buying all those Christmas presents. And it's hard sometimes to remember what was bought for whom, when, and how much is supposed to be a secret. We all like to surprise and be surprised. At least most of us. I was one of those peel-back-the-edge-of-the-wrapping-and-see-if-I-can-catch-a-glimpse-of-the-present kind of kids. And honestly, though I like to give surprises, it's hard for me to keep secrets long. If I buy something fun, I want to give it right away. Waiting just kills me! But anyway...
All this got me to thinking about why it is that we are so excited about telling others about presents, so excited about giving gifts, and yet... When it comes to telling the greatest news of all, when it comes to offering the greatest gift ever given, suddenly we act like we're keeping a secret. Christmas, after all, is supposed to be about Christ; and yet too many Christians act like He's some big secret. We don't talk about Him. We don't tell others about His gift of salvation. We don't share with others what is the single most precious gift ever given. Why is that?
If I buy a great gift, one that I think my wife, or kids, or whoever, is going to absolutely love; I get all giddy inside and just can't wait to tell them. I can't wait for them to see it. But I know the greatest gift ever, the most life changing truth in the universe, and for some reason I don't always feel that same giddiness about offering it to others. What's that all about?
John the Baptist knew a great truth, and nothing anyone could do or say would stop him from telling it. John's Gospel opens with those wonderful words about the Word, the Light of the World, and then tells about that other John who was a witness to the light. We then have a presentation of three straight days where the Baptist points others to Christ.
One day, he's questioned by the "authorities" but he speaks out the truth in spite of the risk. "The next day" the Gospel writer says, John sees Jesus and cries out "Behold, the Lamb of God." And then "the next day again" John points to Jesus again with the same exclamation, and his own disciples leave and begin following after Jesus. So day after day, at the risk of his own safety, in the joy of seeing Christ, and at the cost of "losing" his own followers, John points others to Jesus. He can't keep it a secret.
Now, there is a time and place for secrets, even at Christmas. Don't go running and telling everyone what's wrapped up under the tree. Those are secrets to keep. But when it comes to the reason for that tree, the Christ who came and died on a tree for our sins, please, please, please....Don't Keep it a Secret!