My family had a wonderful day yesterday. We ate and laughed. We found joy in each other’s company. We were reminded that we are loved and belong to the incredible gift of family. But yesterday is gone in all but our memory. My patio has a pile of wadded up wrapping paper and dilapidated boxes this morning. Each box used to contain a gift that was given to bring joy and reminder of love. While the paper and boxes are piled on the patio, the gifts they contained are now in drawers and closets, on nightstands and desks. They will be used and worn in ways that provide utility and comfort. And they are evidence that our family celebrated each other yesterday.

When they were wrapped under the tree, those boxes gave beauty to the room, and created anticipation of what was to come on Christmas morning. The boxes contained the gifts, but the value of what was in the boxes will be determined by what we do with the gift itself.

Christmas is no more about the boxes that contained the gifts than it is about the manger. Both were made special because of what they held. That manger may symbolize the drama of that first Christmas night, but eventually it was empty. The Shepherds went back to field, the Wise Men went back home a different way. Joseph and Mary had to move past the birth of this holy child and begin a life with him, starting by fleeing to Egypt to protect him from Herod. Jesus didn’t stay in the manger; it was just where he began his life on earth; it was not the purpose for which he came.

As you move into the new year, what difference does that empty manger make in your plans, expectations, and perspective for all that is to come in 2014? God gave his only son as his gift to humanity. That same son also left us the incredible gift of an empty tomb. What you do with that gift will determine how you spend eternity.