Thursday, December 20, 2007

Men, Women, and the Theology of Christmas Wrap

A re-run, but one I especially enjoyed. First posted here.

First, from humorist Dave Barry:
This is the time of year when we think back to the very first Christmas, when the Three Wise Men; Gaspar, Balthazar and Herb, went to see the baby Jesus and, according to the Book of Matthew, "presented unto Him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh."

These are simple words, but if we analyze them carefully, we discover an important, yet often overlooked, theological fact: There is no mention of wrapping paper. If there had been wrapping paper, Matthew would have said so:

"And lo, the gifts were inside 600 square cubits of paper. And the paper was festooned with pictures of Frosty the Snowman. And Joseph was going to throweth it away, but Mary saideth unto him, she saideth, 'Holdeth it! That is nice paper! Saveth it for next year!' And Joseph did rolleth his eyeballs. And the baby Jesus was more interested in the paper than the frankincense."

But these words do not appear in the Bible, which means that the very first Christmas gifts were NOT wrapped. This is because the people giving those gifts had two important characteristics:

1. They were wise.

2. They were men.

More here.

Now from moi, le Ironic Catholic:

COUNTERPOINT, by the Ironic Catholic:

It has been said that a critical reading of Matthew argues that the Magi, being "wise men," did not wrap the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh given to the Christ child; ergo, Christmas givers should not wrap their gifts as well. A historical-critical interpretation of the text, as licensed by Dei Verbum, yields an important counterpoint: there was no wrapping paper in 1st century Palestine. The precious nature of papyrus did not lend itself to one-time use. Let's face it, people weren't pounding reeds on rocks, painfully extracting the fibers, and drying them into paper to wrap anything.

However, the practice of wrapping gifts is evidenced in other sections of the Bible. For example, in Genesis 43, the gifts of silver, honey, spices, and myrhh that Joseph's brothers brought to him in Egypt were wrapped in sacks. In Genesis 24:53, "Then the servant brought out gold and silver jewelry and articles of clothing and gave them to Rebekah", the text clearly implies that the gifts came out of a container, perhaps, a gift box, by the verb "brought out."

Finally, we can agree that the greatest gift the world has known is Jesus Christ. And what did the Blessed Mother do? "She wrapped him in swaddling clothes...."

If Jesus was wrapped, so should we wrap our Christmas gifts, because...

1. The Blessed Mother was wise.
2. She was a woman.

(Find your humor unwrapped at


Catholic Audio said...


2 Corinthians 4:2
Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

According to the hermeneutics of St. Paul, we are not to conceal the truth, but rather make the truth apparent. Given this understanding prevalent in the early Church, it is increasingly likely that in Jesus' being laid bare on the cross we are commissioned, as the New Testament Church, to set forth our gifts openly. Wrapping serves to conceal, and as we know, in the NT the previously veiled things are revealed (see, e.g., the 'Apocalypse' or 'unveiling').

No longer are we to adhere to the Judaizing ways of wrapping our gifts! All has been made new!

So there. ;0)

The Ironic Catholic said...

I like it.

Martin Tohill said...

1 Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence 2 of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.
By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God, 3 so that what is visible came into being through the invisible

Clearly wrapping paper is a sign of faith and clearer still the quote from Hebrews 11: 1-2 shows, "because of it the ancients were well attested"; ie they used wrapping paper for their gifts.

Note also that the 10 commandments were wrapped in a cloud of glory before Moses presented them to the people of Israel and that the glory of the second person of God was wrapped in the form of a slave.

I think that the anti-wrapping movement comes from an excessive Sola Scripture position and fails to respect the history as recorded by the Mothers of the Church. I think the "Confessions" by Saint Monica where she outlines her Christmas gift list is a seminal text that has languished too long unread. (Don't ask, I can't seem to find my copy right now. )

Intrepid Mother of the Front Pew Crew said...

God bless you IC! I loved it.

Catholic Audio:
Are we supposed to run around naked, showing forth our gifts, or what? Don't forget these two corporal works of mercy:

Clothe the naked.
Shelter the homeless.

Some things are just better wrapped.

On the other hand, if my husband wanted to give me a diamond bracelet, I wouldn't quibble about the paper. ;)

Adoro te Devote said...

Hmmm...I'm wondering what the Jesus seminar would have said about this?

Perhaps that since there is no corpus, thus the death and existance of Christ cannot be proven, thus, so His birth also cannot be proven because you have to be born in order to die and resurrect.

But I'm not familiar enough with their method...other than...well...they just rip stuff out that they don't like....'s about a response from someone from that "think tank"?

Allen said...

I was just thinking...

Imagine Christmas morning, gathered 'round the festal manger.

Joseph: Oh look! What's this?

Mary: It's a present, silly! See, I've wrapped it.

Joseph: ("opening" it) Oh look! A baby! You shouldn't have!

Mary: I know, but I just got into the Christmas spirit, and--

Joseph: The wha?

Mary: Never mind, Dear. Would you look at that? Your present needs a diaper change!

Allen said...

And thus was born the first "regifting"!

Anonymous said...

The way in which you give a gift can make the gift even more special. The care you take in wrapping a present can show that you think the recipient is special. When the priest distributes communion, he takes special care in the way he presents the Holy Eucharist to the faithful. It is not wrapped, but it is presented and not merely handed out. A meal that has a pleasant presentation is lovely to behold as well as to taste.

CMinor said...

The precious nature of papyrus did not lend itself to one-time use.

Hence Mary's initiation (according to Barry) of the practice of saving gift-wrap for future use?