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Did you know that the original Christmas gifts when given were  placed in a treasure box, or inside a vessel?   Paper was invented in China in 105AD, and since that day, gifts were wrapped. The method and procedure for making paper was kept secret by the Chinese for several centuries.  However, by 800AD, the process was known in Egypt.  Then, knowledge of the process spread to Europe, where the first paper mill began production in 1085.

In 1509, during the reign of Henry VIII in England, wallpaper was invented. For a short time, gifts were wrapped in wallpaper, but it cracked or tore when folded. By the early 1900’s, gifts were wrapped in plain brown paper, or tissue, and tied with cord or string. A reference to this practice is found in Richard Rodgers song lyrics for “My Favorite Things:”  “brown paper packages tied up with string; these are a few of my favorite things.”  Printed tissue paper in varied designs was also used.

In Kansas City, MO, a man named Joyce C. Hall owned a stationery store, selling his own card designs.  Hall is known for being the founder of the greeting card industry, but is also credited with the “invention” of present-day gift wrap.  Hallmark’s launch of printed gift wrap actually happened by accident.  Just before Christmas in 1917, the Hal Brothers’  store had sold out of the white, red and green tissue and one holly pattern for customers to use to wrap holiday packages. So, in an effort to help customers, Rollie Hall, Joyce’s brother, had an idea.  Why not bring some of the envelope lining papers from France, and sell them for 10 cents a sheet?  That year, they sold out quickly.  The next year, the sheets were offered 3 for 25 cents.  Again they sold out.  Soon, Hallmark began manufacturing their own wrapping paper; the first product they made as a departure from greeting cards.

In the 1930s, the brothers introduced Hall Sheen ribbon, which sticks to itself when licked like a stamp.  It is still the company’s most popular ribbon, even now. In 1970, they introduced jumbo plastic gift bags, and paper gift bags with hands in 1987.  Curling cascade ribbon was invented in 1994.  Today Hallmark is the leader of the giftwrap industry, in addition to greeting cards, and unique gift items.

“I never saw anything accepted so quickly,” J.C. Hall said in his autobiography, When You Care Enough. “We didn’t realize it then, but for all practical purposes, an entire new industry had been born. In fact, the decorative gift-wrapping business was born the day Rollie placed the French envelope linings on top of our showcase. Soon gift-wrapping paper became the first product we made that was a departure from greeting cards.”

When I wrap gifts, I am reminded of the Charles Wesley’s words in “Hark the Herald Angels Sing:” veiled in the flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity.”  When someone receives a gift, they might remember temporarily how it was wrapped, but they will remember forever the gift inside. It is the gift that remains.  When we receive the gift of Life in Jesus, the outer trappings of image and status fall away, and His Life begins a transformation process with us.  The Holy Spirit changes our values, and our methods of relating to others. He calls us to growth.  He calls us to discipleship.  It is His Life that remains – for eternity.  And, in the process, we experience the Kingdom of God – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness,  Long-Suffering and Self Control.

In essence, the Incarnation happens all over again.  Jesus comes to live His life in us — We become the Manger.

People may forget us, but they will remember forever what God does through our lives.  Blessings!

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