On November 1st, a friend of mine posted on FaceBook that she had completed all of her Christmas shopping and had wrapped every single present. Then on the Thanksgiving morning she posted a picture of said wrapped presents under a perfectly decorated Christmas tree, all plugged in and tinseled out, ready to go. So you know what I did? I BLOCKED her. I mean, really, who needs friends like that??
But seriously, the tradition of wrapping presents is a curious one. Everyone has a different philosophy of wrapping. My beloved mother-in-law was an excellent gift wrapper. She measured everything, used her ruler to make perfect cut lines, tucked all the corners under in perfect envelope-shapes, and matched her seams with precision. Then the tag and the bow were carefully chosen to match. The wrapping was a gift itself. Me, not so much. When gift bags became popular, I rejoiced. I use them without apology. And you’re lucky if it has matching tissue paper. Or any tissue paper.
Of course so much of the fun of Christmas is trying to guess what is under the colorful wrapping. People will pick up presents, shake them, smell them, and spend days (or in my friend’s case, MONTHS) wondering what the wrapping contains.
Jesus was said to be “wrapped in swaddling cloths” when the shepherds came to see him. They probably also wondered what the wrapping contained.
Luke 2:8-12 New King James Version (NKJV)
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
It was common practice in that time to wrap a newborn in strips of cloth. As any good NICU nurse will tell you, swaddling (done now with a blanket) is still a good practice. It restricts the sudden, jerky reflex that newborns have when they are startled and keeps baby warm and feeling secure. In many ways, swaddling replicates the safety and comfort of the womb.
Jesus, like any other baby, was swaddled. His Christmas wrapping was a gift from his parents, who understood the magnitude of the gift they were wrapping up. Even the shepherds understood that they were experiencing something otherworldly and extraordinary, and they instantly knelt in worship.
It can take a lifetime to unwrap the gift of Jesus. It will take a lifetime of study, prayer, worship, and service to fully realize what we have received. Christmas is an invitation to peek under the wrapping and see what you can see. Do you see what I see? There you will find the Word of God, ready to be held, read, and cherished.
And one last thought…Jesus was wrapped in strips of cloth at both his birth and his burial.
John 19 (NIV)
40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.
And so Jesus’ Christmas wrapping is a reminder that he indeed was born to die…so that you might live. That is the greatest gift you will ever receive.
So open this gift with joy. Open it with a solemn understanding of what you’ve been given. Open it with great abandonment. Open, and receive eternity in all of its glory.
Beautiful Wrappings by Gail Driver