Growing up in a Christian home, I heard the Christmas story every year. We did advent calendars and Scripture memory together, which I treasure nowadays as an older believer.
Ashamedly there were some years I coasted through Christmas season with a “yeah, yeah, I got this Jesus’ birthday stuff” mentality, without truly pondering the “reason for the season.”Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download
However, one year in seminary, a professor camped out with one phrase of the Christmas story that we naturally skim over with each reading: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).
Swaddling cloths? Like the nice, linen-type receiving blankets that all newborns are placed in? Not exactly…
In the days of Jesus, it was customary for those traveling to wear “swaddling clothes” underneath their garments in the event that they would pass away. This way their body would already have the necessary covering as to not make someone “unclean” in touching a dead body.
So why would Mary and Joseph wrap their newborn child, who they had just given life to, in such a morbid exterior?
Because they knew He was born to die. Both Mary and Joseph had been told this child would be the Savior of the world, God’s chosen Son, to be the ultimate sacrifice and bring redemption to His people (Luke 1:32-33; Matthew 1:21-23).
But it doesn’t end there. Another mention of swaddling clothes is found as the angels triumphantly proclaimed Jesus’ birth to the shepherds in the fields nearby.
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12 NKJV
Why would swaddling clothes description be an important enough detail to share with the shepherds? You would think a baby laying in a manger, outside of an inn would be obvious enough.
These shepherds only job in life was to watch sheep. They were to care for dumb animals. Dirty animals. They never darkened the doors of the temple to offer worship or sacrifice. They most likely never heard the Law of the Lord or any part of the great Scriptures read aloud.
Instead, they took care of the pure, spotless lambs that would be chosen and used as sacrifices in each year of the Atonement. These lambs that roamed at their feet could have been the ones that were chosen to take on the sins of the people.
In order to choose these lambs, they had to be carefully inspected to not have a blemish or imperfection. How do you think they were able to inspect wiggly little lambs with four limbs and loud mouths baa’ing? They would wrap these lambs up in swaddling clothes to inspect for any spot. Death clothes, because sheep were born to serve a purpose through their death.
And that first Christmas night, “there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock” (Luke 2:8) when they were the first to receive the news that “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11) was born for them. The one, perfect, saving Lamb of God had arrived!
Everyone who heard the story from the shepherds were left in wonder (Luke 2:18). Here I am – left in wonder – that God would make it so clear to the least of society that He had come, just as prophesied (see Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:1-2, Genesis 49:10, Isaiah 11:1-10, Jeremiah 23:5).
Jesus, our King, was welcomed into this world with no fanfare, no Facebook post, no fancy birth announcement, no Pinterest-worthy outfit. He was wrapped in death clothes and welcomed by shepherds, the lowest in society. That is the wonder of Jesus. The most unlikely of people and places. Yet that is where the greatest glory is received – in the individual hearts of those who seek Him out.
Today, don’t lose the wonder – that Jesus was born to die, which He makes known so that we will go tell others!