Although I know there are lots of folks who don't feel like this, I've really become a fan of giving online electronic gift cards! The ability to sit at my computer and order gifts that are automatically delivered to people's email inboxes has made my life SO much easier and less stressful at Christmastime.
Giving electronic gift cards means that:
- I don't have to spend hours walking through malls and trying to find stuff;
- I know if somebody gets what I send them, and it can't get lost or stolen in the mail; and best of all
Now I know that some people absolutely need to wrap something up, or it's not really a Christmas present. But wrapping things up has always seemed kind of strange to me. After all, the wrapping:
- Just gets torn off and discarded;
- Sometimes takes more effort than buying the gift (do you have enough wrapping paper, and is it appropriate for a the occasion and the person...?)
- Sometimes distracts from the gift itself; after all, it's what's inside that matters, not how fancy or plain the wrapping is.
Yet somehow, whenever you give a wrapped gift, the wrapping gets noticed and maybe even commented on. Even in tonight's Gospel reading - when God gives the gift of his Son - the Gospel writer comments on the wrapping!
Mary "gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth." Well, of course she did. That's what any mother would do with a newborn in the first century. There were no infant diapers or special blankets. You just took bands of cloth and wrapped the baby up so he or she would be warm and safe from the elements.
It's really not a detail worth mentioning. And most of the time, we just pass right over this detail of Jesus' birth. And yet, Luke comments on the wrapping. Somehow, even the gift of God's Son, heralded by Angels, merited a comment on the wrapping.
So what is it about this wrapping that's so important that Luke needs to comment on it? Perhaps the mention of the wrapping is a reminder that:
- God often comes into our lives wrapped in the very normal stuff of everyday life; after all, there was nothing special or unique about the "bands of cloth." Yet so often, we only look for God to show up when he's wrapped in power, glory or splendor...
- God intends to be wrapped up in the real lives of everyday people; after all, the real "wrapping" is that, in Jesus, God wrapped himself in human flesh; and in so doing, wrapped himself up in the real, everyday lives of ordinary people. He didn't reserve himself for "spiritual", out-of-body or mystical experiences...
- God wraps himself in the real world - a world that certainly includes, but isn't limited to, the starry, silent nights that we so often try to turn our Christmas' into. Instead, God is also wrapped in the pain, the grief and the disappointments of the lives we really live in...
So in this case, maybe mentioning the wrapping actually is important. And that's because the wrapping shows us that God is wrapped up in the ordinary people and places in which we live our lives. The wrapping is a reminder that God is wrapped up even and especially in the pain and suffering that we so often think doesn't belong at Christmastime. And most of all, the wrapping reminds us that, in spite of what so many people in our world tend to believe, God really is wrapped up in us and our everyday lives.