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The Gift of Wrapping

Jeff Peabody writes in a Christmas issue of CT magazine:

Several years ago, I decided to write a daily Christmas blog post on our church blog. So, I decided to tackle the theology of Christmas wrapping. I vaguely recalled that some cultures use cloth instead of paper to wrap gifts, which sounded intriguing.

That’s when I first learned about the ancient Japanese art of furoshiki. Feudal lords needed a practical way to bundle their belongings while using the bathhouse, and they displayed their family crests on the outer cloth to identify whose was whose.

Over the centuries, people adapted furoshiki into a beautiful means of presenting gifts. I realized that Jesus came to us in furoshiki, wrapped in cloths. The practice of swaddling crosses cultural lines and can be traced to the earliest civilizations.

For centuries, parents believed that wrapping infants tightly in place helped their limbs to grow straighter. Swaddling fell out of fashion in the 18th century, when physicians largely believed the tightness of the binding was not healthy. Babies need to be able to move somewhat freely for natural development.

It was new for me to consider this less pleasant side of swaddling. I can imagine Jesus in that manger, arms and legs straining against the unyielding bonds. What must it be like for a baby—particularly this baby, God incarnate—to be unable to move in any direction? What must it have been like to have your world shrunk and narrowed so severely?

The conditions of his advent were a small metaphor for his entire life. As the Son of God became flesh and bones, he experienced an unfathomable limitation of himself. The universe closed in around him, restricting him with time and space (see Phil. 2:6–8). Having a human body was like being swaddled, as it contained Almighty God in unnaturally small dimensions.

Possible Preaching Angle:

At some point, each of us meets the limits of being human. We all suffer the inescapable reality of sin and its fallout in this broken world. The simple image of Jesus, God’s gift to us, being wrapped up in cloths comforts me with the powerful truth: He understands the bindings on my mind and soul as only someone who has a shared experience can. The concept of Immanuel, God with us, takes on a new and profound clarity.


Jeff Peabody, “The Gift of Wrapping,” CT magazine (December, 2018), p. 43-44

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