Have you ever noticed that the word, “presentation” contains the word “present?” From looking at this term one can quickly conclude that in giving a gift we need to make sure that it looks good and is “presentable.” In psychology there is a term called, “primacy effect” that means an impression made about someone is usually most influenced by the information that is presented first. This is why most people usually to try to make a good first impression.
In the Christmas Season we are busy covering our gifts with all sorts of colorful wrappings and bows. Some of our efforts might even be foiled by a frisky pet or snooping kid. (My children always attributed the ripped edges on packages to our cat). I know I have spent a lot of time trying to find boxes of various sizes and mailing envelopes. I remember that it used to be popular to wrap presents with the “funnies section” of the local newspaper. I have even seen people use scraps of wall paper. These days it is even fashionable to have the “organic” look. Some might even try to save a tree and reduce their carbon footprint by recycling gift bags and tissue paper. A friend of mine stated that Christmas would be awesome if we could just give the gift in the store bag it came in!
And there are also the ways that people choose to wrap themselves. Some may choose to dress very meticulously and others could care less. Some are ostentatious and others are more modest. Some people are more extroverted and will tell their whole life story within the first five minutes of meeting. Others are more reserved and take years to open up and share with others. Some are tightly wrapped and others are not so tightly wrapped.
We also know that things are not always what they might appear to be. Then there is the old saying that it is not so much about the gift itself but it is more about the giver and the act of giving. Many of us might carry around much on the inside that is unknown by others such as burdens, difficulties, hardships, insecurities and sometimes even grudges. Sometimes we are not even aware of those things that influence us and bring about the outward actions and appearances that we do. Some psychologists might say that it is the unconscious at work and the motives of the giver might be buried, unknown and even misinterpreted.
When I think of this Season of Advent, the Giver of the greatest Gift is making known His plan. We are faced with Sacred Mysteries that are difficult to understand. But I once again I see in today’s Scripture reading in Romans 16:25-27:
“…the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages
but now manifested through the prophetic writings and,
according to the command of the eternal God,
made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith,
to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen (NAB)
That package will appear as a little baby in Bethlehem, “the House of Bread.” Human infants are the most vulnerable creatures, needing the care of parents and guardians to survive. This little package is much more than what appears on the surface and can be much deeper in our hearts. And today He is enthroned and wrapped in the Sacramental garment on the altars of the Church. Faith is a gift from God that we spend our lives unwrapping.
Things are not always what they appear to be. We know that for sure. But we must look beyond the wrappings and try to reach much deeper. To be truly healthy from a psychological standpoint is to be genuine within and without.