You haven’t seen good gift wrapping until you’ve seen my dad do it!
The man is meticulous: Every cut is precise. Every corner fold is symmetrical. Even the patterns on the paper match up flawlessly! Dad isn’t much for ribbons and bows, but if gift boxes were army cots, his would have perfect hospital corners and be smooth, tight, and ready for inspection.
But there are a few gifts even my dad would be hard-pressed to wrap perfectly! Awkward shapes and sizes make it impossible to find a box for some gifts, and no box means more challenging wrapping. Gift bags are fine, but especially where my kids’ gifts are concerned, I really do prefer the slow reveal that wrapping paper offers. (Slow meaning it takes the kids 2.2 seconds to rip off the paper, as opposed to .06 seconds to pull the gift out of a gift bag. I really appreciate that extra 2.12 seconds…)
And so, determined to wrap even the most awkward of gifts, I roll out the paper and make weird cuts and even weirder folds, even patching pieces of paper together if I need to. Strips of tape here and there and everywhere hold it all together, and then I step back, look over my wrapping job, and say to myself,
“Wow. That is one ugly Christmas present.”
But you know what? I have learned that, overall, my kids don’t really care what the gift looks like on the outside. They have been through enough Christmases with me to know that Amazing gifts sometimes come in very rough packaging.
Which reminds me of the first Christmas.
We have an incredible advantage over many of the observers and participants in that first Christmas story, you know. After all, we know the end of the story as well as the beginning, and we can plainly see the beauty of God’s purpose and plan throughout it.
But what if we had been there, as casual observers, watching the story play out before our eyes without any knowledge of what had led up to the scene or to what would eventually follow? How would we have viewed it then?
A baby whose paternity is in question is born into extreme poverty, the parents apparently so destitute they have to seek shelter in a stable, in a country occupied by a brutal empire and torn between factions that hate Rome or just want to appease it.
That hardly paints a bright picture for the future of that little baby.
Honestly, without the aid of some divinely-inspired perspective, I have a feeling I would never have looked at all of that and seen it as a beautiful gift to the world. I would likely have judged it on its surface – an ugly, rather pitiful set of circumstances that would impact no one aside from the broken little people affected by it directly. This baby’s birth would be a dismal, entirely forgettable event.
And yet this was Emmanuel. This was the Messiah. The Savior. God on earth. The Hope of the world. Son of the Most High. This little baby would be the greatest gift in history given to all mankind.
The Greatest. Gift. Ever. But in rough, even ugly packaging.
But isn’t that just like our God? You see, He is remarkably good at cloaking beautiful gifts in less-than-attractive packages. I’m not sure that He wants to hand us dark and broken, even downright ugly circumstances any more than I want to hand my child an ugly present. And yet I wonder sometimes if He sits there just like I do on Christmas morning, watching with some pleasure as we unwrap life’s ugliest gifts. Bit by bit, a little at a time we tear through them, and though the process is often long and uncertain and painful, He doesn’t worry: He knows all along what is waiting for us at the end. He knows that when all is revealed, we will sit holding something beautiful, something longed for, something better than we ever imagined.
Because that is His way.
Someday the ugliness and sorrow of this world will be stripped away. Sin will be dealt with, pain will disappear, strife will cease, and all things will be made right again. Because a beautiful gift was given in the life, death, and glorious resurrection of Christ.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. –Isaiah 9:6
May you be blessed with all the gifts of His love and grace this holiday season.