“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you…”
This was the reminder every Christmas at Grandma Anderson’s house. Each year, as by brother and sister and I would race to the tree to divide up the presents and tear into them like a pack of hungry monkeys on a banana, the voice would boom from over head, “Save the paper!” That was usually enough to settle us down, so that we would calmly open our gifts in an orderly fashion, careful not to tear the paper unnecessarily.
Grandma grew up in the depression, so saving something like Christmas Wrapping paper made sense. She told stories of putting cardboard inside her shoes when she had worn a hole in them, of growing up on the farm and eating things like cows tongue, and heart, and – for some reason – pickled pig’s feet. Plus, the wrapping paper grandma used felt like it might have at one time been wallpaper, so it had an enduring quality to it, so it made sense to save the paper. It made sense to save the paper. She and grandpa worked hard and saved everything they could, and they had a lot to show for it. They had a beautiful house full of refurbished antiques, and the Christmases there were absolutely incredible.
Their penchant for saving things at Christmas didn’t stop at the paper on the gifts. The tree, which itself was held together by generous amounts of wire, tape and prayer was covered by ornaments, tinsel, and a variety of decorations that had been made by my mom and my siblings and I. There was one “ornament” that looked like a glued ball of yarn that had so faded in color and lost its shape we were not really sure it was an ornament after all, but it still went on the tree. Nothing that still retained some semblance of usefulness was ever thrown out. So we would always “Save the Paper!”
Why don’t we save the paper anymore? Wrapping paper is so cheap to purchase, and so thinly made, saving it really doesn’t seem practical. It’s not worth the time and the effort to save something like wrapping paper today. And so it gets discarded after one use, shredded as the last flimsy obstacle to Christmas morning bliss, and never thought of again.
There is no intrinsic value in the paper, and yet I still hear my Grandma say, “Little E, save the paper!” So on Christmas morning, when all the presents have been opened, you’ll know where I sat, for the paper will be neatly piled and preserved, just in case you need it for the coming year.
In Deuteronomy 7, as the people of God are preparing to enter the Promised Land, the Lord gives them a reminder saying, “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him to a thousand generations” (Deut 7:6-10).
We are not the gifts in the story. We are not the tree or the decorations. We are the paper. Torn up by sin, thin and worn by abuse, cast aside by the powers of this world which seek evil; good for nothing but kindling for the fire. Yet when we were wasted by the world, still dead in our trespasses and sins, God set His love upon us in Christ (Rom 5:8). When we were lost and without hope, Christ came to save us, to deliver us, and to return us to the fold of God (Luke 15:3-7; 19:10). The cry has gone out from the beginning of creation, “Save those who are perishing,” and because of God’s love and covenant promise in Christ, we have been saved!
This Christmas, know that Christ has come for your salvation. Receive that gift and rejoice. And save the paper while your at it.