Who in the world would wait until Christmas Eve to do their Christmas shopping? I find it hard to believe the statistics that show December 24th is one of the biggest shopping days of the year, so one season I decided to venture out to the stores and see for myself. I usually have my Christmas list complete by Thanksgiving to avoid the crowds, so even though I was elbow to elbow with anxious shoppers, I didn’t feel the same angst that seemed etched on their faces.
I traveled to my favorite department stores and picked through a few stocking stuffers. Low and behold, I saw three of my in-laws scrambling for gifts. I picked up a few items and went to stand in the check-out line about sixteen people deep. Maybe this was the “season to be jolly” but the people in line at 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve were anything but cheerful.
Amazingly, they were talking to each other. Strangers who normally would never speak to each other in a checkout line were chatting away about Christmas plans, families, special purchases, and where to find great last-minute bargains. I enjoyed listening to the friendly banter. It seemed the shoppers were bonding by a common cause—get the shopping finished today!
The young lady in front of me was laden down with five large rolls of very expensive wrapping paper. She turned to me and said, “I can’t believe I’m spending over $25 on wrapping paper. It seems like such a waste for something that’s going to be torn off and thrown in the trash tomorrow. But at least I won’t have to get back in that traffic and go to another store.”
I didn’t bother telling her about the paper I saw on sale for one-fifth the price she was about to pay. By the look on her face, the $20 saving wouldn’t be worth the trip. Instead, I said, “Oh, it is expensive, isn’t it? But it will look lovely under your tree.”
“Thanks,” she said. “I think it’s pretty, too.”
Musing over the idea of wrapping paper took me back to the origin of the gift-giving tradition. We give gifts at Christmas because the wise men gave gifts to baby Jesus. But were they wrapped? I don’t think so. I didn’t even remember wrapping being mentioned in the Christmas story at all…except in two places.
When baby Jesus was born: While they were there [Mary and Joseph], the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available to them” (Luke 2:6-7 NIV).
And then the angel said to the shepherds: “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12 NIV).
The New Living Translation says it this way: And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Ah, the first Christmas gift was wrapped indeed.
As I watched the young lady dash to her car with her shiny gold paper I thought, “Maybe that expensive paper is not such a waste after all.”
As you look at the beautifully wrapped gifts under your tree this year, remember that the most important gift of all—the one that was wrapped just for you—is the Christ Child Himself.