“What Kinds of Wrappings?”

“What Kinds of Wrappings?”

Christmas Eve C John B. Valentine
Luke 2:1-20 December 24, 2020


Confession time ... folks. Anybody out there still have a present or two left to wrap?

Anybody besides me ... that is??

Now ... I know ... this year obviously hasn’t been like most other years when it comes to wrapping packages ...

With so many of us staying close to home for the Holidays and not running off to this, that and the other Christmas party and all.

But ... nonetheless ... there are lots of ways ... LOTS of ways ... to wrap up your gifts and presents ... are there not???.

+ + + + +

Seriously ... you ever stopped to think about how many different approaches there are to the whole gift-wrapping thing???


• Wherein you go over to Safeway or CVS or maybe Costco... and get yourself a shopping basket full of supplies ... schlep it home ...

• And then discover the painful truth about why your teacher put a “Need Improvement” on your Kindergarten report card when it came to “Attention to Detail”.

But here’s something that really bugs me about that approach ...

I splurged and bought one of those bundled packs of holiday wrapping paper a couple of years back ...

With these three beautiful rolls of shiny blue and gold and silver metallic wrapping paper ... and this one roll of not quite so appealing white and grey paper ... and a sticker on the outside that said “Enough to cover 15 shirt boxes”.

Only problem was ... when I got it home and opened it up ...

• there was about a shirt-box-and-a-half of the metallic blue paper ...
• and another shirt-box-and-a-half of the shiny blue and gold paper ...
• and a whole two shirt-boxes-worth of the blue and silver paper ...
• and like ten or eleven shirt-boxes-worth of the chintzy white and grey paper.

And most of the presents ended up being wrapped in paper I didn’t much like!

Then again ... my own personal favorite from childhood ... there was the WRAP THE PACKAGES IN THE SUNDAY MORNING COMICS method.

Beloved ... at least by me ... because my ‘big gifts’ ... my most-wanted gifts ... were always the ones under the tree that were wrapped in the funny pages.

But not too many people get the paper anymore ... so that one’s gone by the wayside.

Then again ... if you’re not into the whole ribbon and tape and paper thing ... YOU COULD ALWAYS OPT FOR THE GIFT BAG METHOD OF WRAPPING ... if’n you’ve already purchased the gift bags.

You know ... GIFT BAGS.

• Open the bag ...
• Stick in a piece of tissue ...
• Drop in the gift ...
• Add another piece of tissue ...
• Forget about it.

Gift bags can make any gift look special ... with a minimal commitment of time.

Though you do probably end up spending more on gift bag than you spent on the gift!

Or what about those old GIFT BOXES?? Anybody remember those?

Where you had these boxes ... with wrapping paper meticulously covering the lid ... and then just a length of ribbon or yarn to hold the thing closed?

Those pre-wrapped gift boxes got used year after year after year ... and were just fine ... as long as you could find a box of the right size and shape to fit the present you wanted to wrap.

The problem with those gift-boxes was that you had to find some place to store them for the fifty-one weeks of the year in which they weren’t in use.


My grandmother used to be big on that one. Wherein ... before you opened your gift ... someone would holler out ... “Don’t tear that paper” ... and then you’d have to carefully slide your fingers under the tape ... or maybe cut the tape ... so that the paper could be used again next year.

+ + + + +

You know ... you may think I’m off-based for focusing on the subject of gift-wrap on this oh-so-holy night ...

But I’m not so sure.

You see ... tonight’s Gospel lesson ... more than any other lesson in the whole of the Bible ... attends to the matter of a gift ... and the way in which that gift was wrapped

Not just once ... but twice ... the Christmas story recorded in Luke’s gospel attends to the matter of the wrapping paper.

How does the Christmas story go?

“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

And a little bit later on ...when the angel appears to the shepherds ... the angels says:

“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

This story declares ... in no uncertain terms ...

That Christmas is all about God sending us ... sending YOU ... a gift.

This story declares ... in no uncertain terms ...

That the Christmas gift God is sending us ... sending you ... is a gift about which even angels get excited.

This story declares ... in no uncertain terms ...

That the gift God is sending is good news for YOU.

But ... then again ... this story declares ... in no uncertain terms ...

That that gift is wrapped ... not in paper and ribbon and tape ... not in a gift-box or a gift-bag ... not in some hand-me-down paper or the comic-pages from last Sunday’s Times ...

But in a couple long strips of cloth pulled from the rag-bag!

For the gift is God ... God himself ... come in the form of this child.

But then ... and throughout the ages ... and even especially now ... people seem to have missed the gift because of the paper ... or because of the packaging ...

Because it’s just too preposterous ... they say ... to think that the Creator of Heaven and Earth could ... and would ... embody divinity in humanity as a once-for-all-time and once-for-all-people gift.

+ + + + +

You see ... Christmas ... by the estimation of our society ... is all about giving and receiving presents ... is it not?

And Christmas ... by its definition in Holy Scripture ... is also all about giving and receiving presents ... is it not???

God giving ... us receiving.

But consider ... for just a minute ... how challenging it is to receive certain kinds of gifts.

I mean ... some gifts ... by their very nature ... make you swallow your pride when you receive them.

Imagine opening a present on Christmas morning from a friend .... it’s a dieting book!

Then you take off another ribbon and wrapper and you find it is another book from another friend ... entitled “Overcoming Selfishness”.

If you say to them .... “Thank you so much” .... you are in a sense admitting ... “For indeed I am a tad overweight and a wee bit obnoxious.”

In other words ... some gifts are hard to receive ... because to do so is to admit you have flaws and weaknesses and you need help.

Like perhaps the time when a sibling or a parent or a friend figured out you were in financial trouble ... and came to you and offered a large sum of money to help you get out of your predicament ... and you found that receiving that gift meant swallowing your pride and owning up to the fact that you desperately needed the help.

But never has a gift been offered that makes us swallow our pride to the depths that God’s Christmas gift requires us to do.

Christmas means that we are so lost ... so unable to save ourselves ... so turned in upon us ... that nothing less than the gift of Son of God himself can save us.

• As much as we’d like to think we can live a good and godly life ... we can’t.

• As much as we’d like to think we are the masters of our own destiny ... we aren’t.

• As much as we’d like to think it’s all about us ... it isn’t.

And ... in a certain way ... this gift that God gives us at Christmas can’t be a gift for us unless we own that we need that gift ... and open that gift ... and be open to that gift that you can find in the same place that the shepherds found it .... “wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

“What Kinds of Wrappings?” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine in conjunction with our worship video for Christmas Eve 2020.  The text upon which it is based is Luke 2:1-20