“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12
Are you fascinated by signs or clues, just like Sherlock Holmes? Well, the shepherds were given a “sign,” to know that they found the right baby to visit that first Christmas night. I suppose there might be a number of babies born that night.
Finding a baby in a stable and lying in a manger was strange enough I would say, but there was more than to it. The baby was wrapped not in a diaper or a blanket, but in a swaddling clothes. Have you ever wonder why the swaddling clothes was a sign? What is a swaddling clothes anyway?
A swaddling clothes is a long and narrow bands of cloth that is used in wrapping a body in the olden times. Then, where did Mary and Joseph got this “signature” cloth, you may ask, to wrap their baby? No, not in a shopping mall or store, for I don’t believe they had time for that, though I think there were a lot of merchandise and bargains in Jericho, which was on the way. And definitely that type of cloth is not something lying around in a stable, or something that they just stumbled upon on the road in their long trip to Bethlehem.
The ancient Middle Eastern culture have a tradition that when they travel that will last for many days to months, men will take with them, a long, thin, gauze-like cloth, and wrap it many times around their waist. This would be one of the bottom layers of their clothing, and this would not be like Calvin Klein or Hanes . This cloth is reserved for death, if in case this will happen while they are traveling. If someone died during the journey, their friends and family would use this cloth and wrap their body from head to toe, just like a mummy, so they could complete their journey.
Since Mary and Joseph’s journey from their hometown of Nazareth, to Joseph’s ancestral town of Bethlehem, was a couple of days travel (80 miles in distance one way), it was most likely that Joseph was wearing his “death” cloth according to their custom. Do you see where this is going?
Though it cannot be proven with certainty as it was not recorded directly in the scriptures, but it was very likely that baby Jesus was wrapped in Joseph’s “death” cloth! That would make one of the wise men’s gift even more appropriate. Myrrh, was the spice used to embalm the dead. It was basically a deodorant for the dead.
Do you see the theme here? Jesus was a baby born to die. He came to this world to die for you and for me.
As we celebrate this Christmas, may we for a moment, pause for the real meaning of this occasion. It’s not about shopping (though that was what commercial institutions want you to believe), nor about our kid’s or our own Christmas wish list. It is not about Christmas trees, nor sitting on someone’s lap, nor filling our stockings with goodies, nor the gifts under the tree.
But yes, this season is about “the gift.” The gift was not wrapped with bows and ribbons, but with “death” cloth. The gift was not under the tree, but rather, He was hanged and died on a tree.
May you have a blessed Christmas.