When I was at home in California for Thanksgiving this year, I ate a gingerbread cookie at my friends’ house. Mamie showed me pictures of her husband Stephen making them. I was impressed. The cookie was good, too.

Somehow I don’t usually reach for the gingerbread cookies right away when I am hungry for something sweet. Perhaps it has something to do with the stigma of the title “gingerbread man” in my mind: I think of the story of the arrogant little guy who led everyone on a merry chase until he trusted the wrong person and was caught anyway. “Run! Run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me! I’m the Gingerbread Man!” More likely, I just don’t reach for gingerbread because ginger is not my favorite spice (Grandma, on the other hand, would rank gingery cookies among her favorites).

The Gingerbread Man gets me thinking, though: I usually enjoy irony, but the story of the Gingerbread Man has always bothered me a little. At an age when obedience to parents and other adults was stressed, the defiance of the little cookie shocked me (so did Tom Sawyer when I first read his adventures). But inside me I see a little of his desire to do his own thing–who wants to be eaten anyway, even if that was the purpose for which one was made? I never knew with whom to sympathize: the old lady who made him for eating and was so rudely disobeyed and deprived of her treat? or the disobedient cookie who ran out of a sense of gleeful self-preservation and ended up being eaten for his troubles?

I suspect that deep down inside, my disobedience stems from my lack of trust. In my sophomore year of college, the knowledge of God’s sovereignty began to frighten me, especially as the terrible meaning of the fact that He does all things for His own glory began to sink into my soul. God began to seem like the lady who made the Gingerbread Man: He seemed to care about me merely as a means to further His own ends. And, like the main character in the story, I found myself stuck between a God who would consume me for His own glory and a dreaded enemy who would pretend to help me and then devour me mercilessly. We learn early that anyone who is out to get his own glory really does not care about us. A God like that is frightening. How could a God who made us–like gingerbread men–for His own pleasure still have our best interests in mind? Could God’s best interests and our best interests really be one and the same thing? Life usually feels more like a frantic dash away from everything and everyone that would devour us, that would take from us what they want and then fling out the unusable parts of us. And I have found it easy to “fear” God as my Creator and Master, running from Him rather than to Him when I feel the predators of life at my heels. I don’t want to be eaten!

And that’s why Christmas is so important: God did create us for His pleasure, yet He loves us completely, through and through, intimately. He will not devour us, smack His lips, and pat Himself on the back for having made such a delicious cookie. And so He came at Christmas to show us that He wants us for us. A little song from a children’s Christmas musical says it far better than I will ever be able to:

“Close to Him”
by Kathie Hill and Janet McMahan [punctuation and some other mechanics my own]

He wants to be close to His children,
So He’ll become a child–
A helpless little baby,
A Savior meek and mild.
He’ll leave His home in Heaven
To prove His love is real,
And be born as a baby
Just so man can feel

Close to Him, close to Him,
And now all of His children can feel so close to Him.
Close to Him, close to Him,
And now all of His children can feel so close to Him.

He’ll know what it’s like to be lonely
And how it feels to cry,
To love His friends and family
Then have to say goodbye.
This baby in a manger
Will be God’s pure love revealed:
Love living among them
Just so man can feel

Close to Him, close to Him,
And now all of His children can feel so close to Him.
Close to Him, close to Him,
And now all of His children can feel so close to Him.

He came to earth to be like us. He came to earth to show us that He loves us. He came to earth to be closer to us so that we could understand Him better and dare to draw near to Him. Unafraid to be His.

“We love Him because He first loved us.” I John 4:19

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