Words from Dic(tionary)
Alabaster: (n) a fine-grained, translucent form of gypsum, usually white and often carved into ornaments.
What a great word for the Christmas season!
I don’t know where I got the idea–I’m sure somewhere in my twisted history it slipped in through an available crack, but I always envisioned the wise ones from the East, who came to Bethlehem, bringing their gifts in alabaster boxes.
Maybe it’s something I just absorbed over the years from viewing artists’ renditions of the astrologers’ luggage. But it was always a beautiful sight–because truthfully, you can tell the value of a gift by its packaging.
Let me rephrase that. I believe you should be able to tell the content of the quality of a gift through its container.
A story: many years ago, at Christmastime, one of my children, lacking finance for the occasion, bought a good number of the one-dollar boxes of chocolate-covered cherries. The reason that I knew they cost a buck is that the store printed the price on the front of the wrapper, and my child was unable to dispel the evidence. Being a little bit embarrassed over offering such a cheap gift, he wrapped them beautifully in gorgeous paper, placing a bow on the top.
I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed, after commenting on the beauty of the packaging, to discover the cheap contents. I hid my disappointment pretty well, though, and acted like they were the best chocolate-covered cherries that God, the angels, or Russell Stover, for that matter, had ever come up with.
But the incident gave me reason to contemplate the issue of presentation. It’s why we dress up for formal occasions instead of showing up in t-shirts and jeans. The person inside is the same, but the outward appearance certainly advertises better possibilities.
So I imagine when these star-gazers from the East arrived in Bethlehem, and Mary and Joseph saw the alabaster boxes, a tingle went through them, down to their spines, because they suspected they were in for a good haul. Being simple folks on the fast track for sainthood, they probably attempted to hide these very carnal sensations. But I’m sure the presence of alabaster stimulated a great hope in their hearts, that just maybe they wouldn’t have to be poor forever. And sure enough, upon opening them, they found gold, frankincense and myrrh.
So you may think it’s funny to wrap a stick of gum in golden paper with ribbon and tinsel. Or you may want to play down your offering by placing the gold watch you purchased in a brown paper bag. But I will tell you, there is a power in at least attempting to match what’s inside with what’s outside.
For instance, it’s why I continue to diet … even though my efforts are mocked by the universe.