Skip The Crunch, Kneel at the Creche – Never Wrap ‘Til Christmas Eve (Then Swaddle Only)

Most all of us love getting gifts. Especially the wrapped ones, and especially at Christmas. We either like the look of them, or maybe the sound of unwrapping them, or both. But how about wrapping itself? How many of us love to wrap? (OK, a mixed vote, it seems.) And how many of us like to wrap early? And how many of us are late-wrappers, right down to the last minute? Well… to my absolute astonishment… I've found some wrapping advice in the Gospels. Who woulda thunk it? Let me pass it on to you. Never wrap 'til Christmas Eve! Then, swaddle only! Now, early and middling wrappers among us may have trouble grasping this. So I invite you to repeat with me [By phrase: lft. to rt., rt. to lft.] Never wrap 'til Christmas Eve! Then, swaddle only! Stay with me a few moments. I'll show you how I bumped into this in Holy Writ. 

Study on this with me in your spirit. Wrapping is the ultimate sign that we're done. Nothin' new goes in once the wrap goes on. That's key! No more giving's going to happen than that for which we are fully prepared. Oh, among the sinners in this room, I just know there are what I call Christmas peekers. You know who you are! Some are brazen. 'Known to actually unwrap the gift to peer within. Now the problems. #1: It's very hard to re-wrap. So you can often get caught in your "sin". #2: Nothing more ever gets in once the wrapper goes on (for the first or second time). So never add or subtract the wrapper until you've got all the gift that's about to be given. It's why the waiting is sacred. God gets 'til-the-last-minute to get the fullness of the gift God's ready to give. And to get it packaged for ours and his best glory. Now let's go to the Text and test this out. Who knows what good could come of our discoveries in this waiting season?

Let's talk about waiting to wrap, waiting for Jesus. And let's talk about waiting with Mary, his mama-to-be. She's heard from the angel alright. "The Lord is with you! Don't be afraid. You'll conceive. 'Bear a son. 'Call him Jesus. He'll be great, 'given David's throne and a kingdom without end. The Holy Spirit will overshadow you; therefore your child will be called holy." Mary embraces the miracle. Surely, it's done. Heaven can have nothing else to give. "That's a wrap," we'd say. But not for Mary. She's not gonna package God's providence and tie it with a bow 48 verses before Christmas Eve! You see, God is not done yet. Watch what happens when Mary goes to her cousin Elizabeth. She's got her own miracle goin', a baby comin', despite her advanced years. When Mary's comin' up Elizabeth's path, get this, the child within her (John the Baptist!) leaps for joy! Elizabeth asks of Mary the same telling question Mary asked the angel Gabriel. "How can this be?" Or, "Why is this granted, that my Lord's mother comes to me?" Both Mary and Elizabeth remain open to the possibility that God has still more miracles to bring forth. Each recognizes in the other and the child she carries, yet another sign, an added, confirming blessing. And each is astonished, truly overwhelmed that God in heaven would visit the earth in the likes of them. Both, ordinary at best. Regular folks. Unheard of 'til now. Unheralded. In fact, to considerable degree, thought unworthy, suspect, unsavory. Mary, because her child was not Joseph's. Elizabeth, because she'd been so long without-child, a sign of sin or shame in that ancient day. How easily either or both could have said of their lives, "It's over. A wrap!"… And that, long before their blessings brought a roundness to their middles. And how much more easily could they have concluded God had nothing else to give, God had given so much. And yet… they were open and inviting of whatever God would provide, so far beyond their imagination to predict.  

It's by the example of these women that I say to you, please don't wrap 'til Christmas Eve. And not more than a moment before mid-night if you can possibly help it. Please consider in these approaching days, all that God has done, is doing and can do for you in the coming of his Son. But then, don't wrap those gifts and say, "No more." Instead, be open to the surprising blessings God may yet have coming for you and for us.  

Oh, how tempted we are to look on this Christmas that's coming and that sweet, sweet baby in the manger and say, "That's a wrap! Done. What more could God possibly do? Tie up this glory with ribbon and seal it with a bow." So we gift one another at home and at work, only to take for granted, ignore, offend or abuse each other 'til next December. We'll lullaby Jesus into, "sleep in heavenly peace," and then make war in our relationships, our relationship with God (that's what sin is, by the way) and in a more literal sense, all around the world. Don't wrap Jesus 'til the last moment friends. Let him grow into that child who will question the elders in the Temple. Let him ask them and ask us about all of our assumptions for faith and life. Wherever you see God "drawing the line," take note. That boy in the Temple keeps moving the line. Let this baby grow enough to challenge and grow your faith before you wrap in paper and ribbon and say, "No more." Let him grow up. And leave Mary. Let him teach. Heal. Preach. Correct. Comfort. And more. (More about this in a moment.) Let him do these things not just for others, but for you. Do this, and it will always seem it's not quite wrapping time; there's yet some other gift to be received. 

Remember what we said at the start? Never wrap 'til Christmas Eve! Then, swaddle only! Let's talk about the swaddle part. I confess I haven't swaddled much lately. Why, even diapers-for-little-disciples are currently passé at our house. So I went to the great Bible commentaries. Their swaddling explanations aren't that illuminating. Off to the internet. Not much there of help to us, either. But what I needed, you too, came clear, right before my eyes. God wants us to take away 2 lessons from Luke's notation of the swaddled babe. First, it's commonness. Every little one back then and there the same. The message: this extraordinary child is every-child. One of you, says Heaven. One of us. And right from the start! Second. Luke is reminding us of what Matthew does in speaking of Joseph. This delivery-for-our-deliverance is planned. Long planned. Planned and prepared-for well in advance and down to the windings on that little baby's bottom. And the signs of his coming and his meaning will be clear. All this is exactly what Joseph has been told, just like Mary. Dear Joseph. So ready at first to wrap early. Mary, with-child-not-his-own. Break off. Break up. Be done. BUT…(O, look out when God says that little word to you. Big things usually follow.) BUT an angel of the Lord appeared! (Look out, Joseph, INCOMING) Joe is told, "Don't go!" And, "Let me tell you so you'll know. Spirit conceived. Savior. Prophet's-Word- come-true. What God has said God is making so with you!" Now Joseph will actually experience what Mary and the shepherds will.

The promised child actually given, and swaddled as the mark of God's intent to do as God has said.  

If we hang in, like Joseph did, and not wrap up too early, as that old carpenter was want to do, why, just look what will be in our future. Maybe not a trip to CVS for swaddling clothes. But if we see in this child the sign of God's promise, amazement aplenty will be coming our way. Joseph got his broken heart restored. The child was his sign. God knows what God is doing with my life. And I have a place in God's plan, begun for me even before I was yet begun! Friends that's our story, yours and mine, as much as Joseph's. Joseph will get to see and hear angels, messengers from God, as near and surprising as dreams in the night. I'm no Joan of Arch, or special soul in any way I know. But even I can tell you. A prayer on a problem at bedside, marinated in rest through the night and the marvel of a new morning can show you the way your feet should go. I'm here to say that's been part of my way. Yours too. And Joseph will learn that following the plan makes all the difference. Even if it means goin' in your life where you've never been and wouldn't choose. (Remember the angel's later word. "Take the child and flee to Egypt.") Surely Joseph and Jesus must've talked about this in the carpenter's shop on many a slow business day and more. And of the surprises God in Christ would have in store.

      Relief of suffering. (What parent would give for bread, a

              stone? How much more does God give the gift we need!)

      Forgiveness of sin. (Bowden illust. God never asks which.)

      The cross. The key to life, not the sign of death.

      The final wrapping: The tomb… that God himself will

               burst. Grave clothes, unwound like swaddling changed or

               needed no more. It's the perfect sign this ending is only a

               new birth and a new beginning for all who look and see.  

Dearest friends, I grant you can do as you will with the little presents of this season. But in it's truest gift, The Christ…

Never wrap 'til Christmas Eve! Then, swaddle only!

Don't finish Christmas before God is done.

And God is not done yet. With Christ or with us.

And look for every promised sign. God's kept His promise!

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