Wrapping paper is a sign of Christmas, isn’t it?
Do you get excitedly suspicious about what is happening when you see the rolls of scotch tape and the tubes of wrapping paper tucked in a corner or left on a table?
Why? Because it’s a sign.
And then depending on your family, you may start to see wrapped gifts appear in the days leading up to Christmas. Some of them may be for others, to whom you will give a gift, but others will may have come in and it has your name on it. They too are a sign.
And again, on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day, particularly when children are younger, there is an excitement that grabs hold of the young and even the old, as all kinds of wrapping paper are found beneath the tree. Some in square shapes, others, in rectangular shapes, and still others in some odd shapes. In our family's recent gift exchange, I sent a gift to our nephew, wrapped and enclosed in a long cylinder. His curiosity grew because his name was on the outside of an atypical shaped gift. Each shape, each gift wrapping is a sign. It’s a sign of what lies beneath or within.
But how many people still have the wrapping paper from their gift last Christmas? Or how many people remember the wrapping paper from their favourite gift?
The reality is that though your gift may be wrapped with care…we don’t really care for the wrapping at all. It’s what lies within that matters most and has the biggest, most enduring impact on us.
I think it is interesting that in the story of the birth of Jesus, that the shepherds are told to look for a sign. The sign is that they will find a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Jesus, the gift of salvation, Saviour of the World, the King of all Kings, would be wrapped in strips of clothes and be found lying in an animals feeding trough?
If the wrapping helps us to discern the nature of the gift then what could this mean?
It’s important enough, that the story reminds us of it’s importance, twice very clearly, (Luke 2:6-7, 12, 14) and once as a confirmation.
Jesus, the second member of the Eternal Trinity (with the Father and the Holy Spirit) though he has always existed, is incarnated or born as a child. Upon his birth, like any caring mother, Mary wraps this child entrusted to her, in strips of material, swaddling and lays him down in a feeding trough, though protected by the secure and warm confines of the linen.
He, who knew limitless freedom throughout all of time in constrained to the limitations of humanity symbolized by the blanket that now held him close.
And if we are to follow the path of Jesus throughout his life, we can observe the limitations that his humanity had upon him, he understood our experiences of sadness and anger. He understood and experienced, weakness, hunger, poverty and disappointment.
But it was never about the gift wrapping. It was about the gift. Even though the garment he would wear in his earthly life, the wrappings of his humanity, would be used to bring healing to those who, in the desperation of their suffering, would reach out in faith (Luke 8:43-48). The healing came not because of the garment, but because of Him upon whom it was cloaked. Jesus, the one who was once wrapped tightly, has not only come to offer salvation to all, but also healing to those who suffer.
And His garments would be ripped, torn, shredded as He withstood betrayal and even punishment. While he did no sin and committed no act deserving of torture, he withstood the pain, the shame of having even his clothes ripped from him, and what is more, he demonstrated no hint of retaliation or revenge. Despite of the humiliation of having his tattered clothes torn from him and then gambled away by the soldiers who mocked him (John 19:23-24). Perhaps they thought there was magic or power in the strips of clothes; rather than the redemption that came through the stipes made by the whipping he endured for our sins, on our behalf. He withstood it all and gave himself freely, with a depth of love and a breadth forgiveness that forever changes the world. It was never about the wrapping. It was about the gift.
When Jesus had died upon the cross of Calvary, Luke also tells us that is body was taken down and it was prepared for burial, the way the kings of old were prepared. His body was wrapped in strips of cloths, sealed with a mixture of perfumes, like myrrh and other spices, and then placed in a borrowed tomb (Luke 23:50-54). Saviour, Healer, Redeemer, Jesus also becomes The perfect Sacrifice, willing to take the punishment of our sin.
But on the morning of the third day, something else happened, when the stone was rolled away (Luke 24:12). Jesus was not there anymore! He was risen!! And the evidence of his resurrection and our redemption was that the strips of linen were left. They were needed no longer, his body had been glorified! The confines of humanity no longer were applied. It was finished indeed!!
Saviour, Healer, Redeemer, Sacrifice and Conqueror. It was never about the wrapping, it has always been about the Gift!
Jesus is the King that was promised, even if the wrapping he came in didn’t quite resemble what we thought could be inside. It was never about the wrapping. It’s always about what is held within the wrapping. Jesus is the perfect gift, given at the jus the right time and meets our every need at every stage and for every circumstance of our lives!
We don’t normally leave gifts unwrapped, unopened. The wrappings are a sign that there is a something for us to discover within, not seen or easily discerned. If you’ve never opened and discovered the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, then let me invite you to do so today.
If you have previously received the Gift of salvation in Jesus, then let me also invite you to continue to examine His life, as there is so much more to discover as we follow His example and develop His character.
For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.