I love cookie exchanges. In fact, I’m quite certain they were created just for me. You see, I get to bring my cookies in, you know, the ones that can never be determined if I made them or my kids did. They’re a little burnt (okay, maybe more than a little), are crumbling and are decorated in a way that would shame a two-year old.
I’m sorry, people. I don’t try to make ugly cookies (anyone want to trade the ugly sweater tradition and begin ugly cookies with me? I’m all over that one!), but despite my best efforts, that’s exactly what they are.
Which is precisely why I love cookie exchanges.
I bring in a plate of ahem–cookies–and get to trade my messy slop for an exquisite assortment of tasty goods in every shape and size. I may or may not have pretended in years past that said slop never originated from my house. Case in point:
“What are those?” someone in line in front of me asks, “and why would they bring them here?”
“I have absolutely no idea,” I respond. Sorry, but I reserve every right to fib when it comes to claiming what food I have prepared.
I finish walking through the line, gathering some of everyone else’s cookies while everybody must take a few of mine (again, I’m sorry. Truly I am) and walk out with a plate of goodies worthy to distribute to the neighbors.
I have no idea how cookie exchanges came to be part of the many Christmas traditions, but I for one am beyond grateful for two very important reasons. The first I already shared: you all save me. Thank you!
But the second is the one I really love. Cookie exchanges tell the gospel, at least when you put yourself behind my apron.
I don’t mean to bring the ugliest cookies imaginable. It just happens that way. Similarly, I don’t mean to do the things that cover me in ugly stains, those selfish ambitions that run deep, the mean-spirited words that slip when I’m much too tired, and so, so much more. And just like I want to pretend like those less-than cookies aren’t mine, I’d much prefer to present the “good” me to Christ.
But alas, my best efforts fail me. I can squirm and hide as much as I want, but the bottom line remains: those cookies are my cookies and this sin is my sin. It’s kinda like this year’s cookie exchange, the very one that I was asked to speak at and I shared this story. Oh, and the same one where each participant had to write their name on a tag next to their plate of goodies. Thank you very much. I’ll just say that I came home with twice as many cookies as I went with because no one dared take any of mine (note: you all are wise and I hold no hard feelings whatsoever).
With my name beside the cookies, there was no hiding the fact that I was the bearer of the ugly. Revelation 20:12b says, “And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” Notice that it isn’t referring to the Book of Life, the one in which names are recorded of those who profess their faith in Christ. The books talked about in this verse list out the very things we’ve done in our lives.
Yes, that’s so much worse than placing my name tag by my cookies, but here is the most beautiful gift of all:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
We know the story, the great, unthinkable truth as Christ took our burnt-up, bitter “cookies” and exchanged them for the perfect, unblemished kind that could only be offered by a perfect, unblemished Messiah.
Oh, sweet mercy.
Today, let’s celebrate the birth of the ultimate exchanger, the One who makes these cookie exchanges offer so much more than a temporary delight, for His birth–and then His crucifixion and resurrection–are the only things capable of giving us a gift that lasts for eternity.
Merry Christmas, my friend.