Sunday, December 23, 2012
THE SWADDLING CLOTHES
On this Sunday, the eve of Christmas Eve, December 23, 2012, I have been thrilled to experience two very different looks at the Christmas story. This look at the swaddling clothes was so exciting to me that I just have to share it with you
Remembering that the shepherds were told that “this will be a sign unto you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths (swaddling clothes) lying in a manger.” To many who read or hear this story this sentence is a given: Of course He was found that way; it was prophesied to be that way. Others, like me, quietly ask, “Why is the swaddling a sign of anything since nearly every baby born in those days and for centuries after were swaddled at birth?” Even today the practice has come back into the lives of some new mothers.
Well, looking at several sights with a different view I found that many scholars see it as a sign of His appointed death: He came to die. I also found that the wrapping done in death is also called swaddling and that is what the sign and reference is all about.
Therefore, as an object lesson, swaddling can help us to see that Jesus’ ultimate purpose in being born, was to die. Mary’s wrapping of Jesus in swaddling clothes foreshadowed His death on the cross: the price He would willingly pay for our sins. This Christmas, let us never lose sight of this fact: that Jesus was born to die, so that we who are dead could live. In the exultant celebration of Jesus’ birth, remember that the gift God gave us is Jesus’ death.
But this morning, while watching Day of Discovery, I was privileged to hear about this from a born-again Christian scholar whose field of expertise is Jewish history, and he had a little bit different angle to tell us about. His summary is based on to whom it was a sign: The shepherds, these very special shepherds.
It seems that in the writings of history, if not specifically in the Word, these were indeed very special shepherds. They were the keepers of the sacrificial sheep and lambs that had been raised specifically for sacrifice when they would be needed. They were referred to as the “priestly shepherds.” This ties in with the study we are doing on the tabernacle and on the “assignments” given as gifts to the Line of Aaron to be priests and to the tribe of Levi to assist these priests as a way of life.
Apparently the fields where these sheep were kept were not far away from Jerusalem and between those fields and Bethlehem there was a 2-story tower that served as a look out and as a place to birth lambs. When it was time for a birth, they took the sheep in this shelter and literally pulled the lamb out (as veterinarians often have to do, even today.) The purpose was to make sure the lamb was born unblemished. Then, to further protect the lamb from harming itself, they took “swaddling blankets” and quickly wrapped the lambs in them so that they would not sprain or break a leg trying to get up. After they were calm, they were unwrapped and helped up to go to the mother and grow unblemished beside her.
For these shepherds who served God and the priests so willingly day after day, this was a sure sign that this was the Lamb of God who would be the ultimate sacrifice. They knew exactly what the swaddling represented and were thrilled out of their minds to see this answer to so much prayer and praise to God.
And, if that doesn’t make us grin from ear to ear, we have worked too hard to makeover Christmas into what we think it should be, leaving no room for what it really is: The strike of God against all evil. But that’s part of the other amazing thing I heard today and I will tell you about that in “ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE.” :)
Meanwhile, may the PEACE and JOY of Christ, Himself, be with you all for ever and ever. Amen.