While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.
Is it mere tradition that we wrap gifts at Christmas? Is it custom to simply preserve the secret a little longer for the recipient, or prolong the suspense?
I suspect it is a continuation of the most remarkable gift wrapping that took place that first Christmas night, a mother who swaddled her baby. Later in His life, Jesus wraps Himself with a towel as He becomes a servant devoted to washing away the dirt on His disciples’ feet. Finally, at death, He is carefully wrapped by the people who loved Him in spices and linens, which He abandons in an open tomb three days later, the napkin from around His head neatly folded and set aside.
Why is there emphasis in the scripture how Jesus is wrapped in cloth, in towel, in linens that He no longer needs?
Perhaps we are to understand swaddling the newborn and the newly dead as a protective measure of nurture, preservation, respect and honoring. Jesus wrapping Himself for foot washing also protects Him and comforts others, so with His own hands He can dry dirty feet with great care and love. There is deep affection in the touching, washing, clothing and honoring of the body, whether it is infant, dirty feet or the dead.
As we open our gifts, we will remember there can be no giftwrap like the first, or the last. He has unwrapped Himself for us, and is waiting, arms wide open.