The Sign In The Manger
And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12 NKJV
So does anyone really know what “swaddling clothes” are? Isn’t that funny how we hear about that every year at Christmas both in song and when we read the Christmas story from the account of Luke, yet we never stop to consider what swaddling clothes means and why it is relevant to us? And yet we know there is strong significance to the swaddling clothes because the angels tell the shepherds in the field (who have just witnesses the glory of the Lord shining around them), that these swaddling clothes will be a sign to them. The shepherds are looking for a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, so what does that signify for them then and for us now?
First we need to understand that the verse is very specific that these are swaddling clothes, not swaddling clothes as we like to say. This was not like a blanket that was wrapped around Jesus, these were strips of cloth. Picture bandages wrapped around a person. So what the shepherds are looking for is a baby that is wrapped in nothing but strips of material to keep him warm and secure.
Think about the Biblical imagery this brings to mind that is significant to Jesus during His ministry years. In John 11:44 we read about Jesus’ friend Lazarus who had died and whom Jesus raised from the dead. In the Amplified Bible it reads: And out walked the man who had been dead, his hands and feet wrapped in burial clothes (linen strips), and with a [burial] napkin bound around his face. Jesus said to them, Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go.
When Lazarus was resurrected from the dead he had to have the grave clothes, the strips of linen that were wrapped around him, removed. These would have kept him in bondage if not removed. They represent the bondage of this carnal world. Here comes Jesus into the world, He is God made flesh, from the spiritual to the natural realm. Picture His little body wrapped in strips of cloth representing, even at His birth that God has lowered Himself to the things of this carnal world. Corruption of the flesh had held men in bondage since the Garden. H accepts that stature of a man and will break those bondages. What a picture the shepherds see when they find Him. It was sing of who he was, what He accepted and what He would do.
The root of the word for swaddling in the Greek, is to “rend or to tear”. So picture this illustration that the Lord is giving at the very birth of Jesus He is wrapped in linen strips which are ripped and torn. That which surrounds His little body is rent and torn, just as that same body itself would be rent and torn for us with the scourging He would suffer. Even at His birth we see the representation of what He would do for all men. That is what the swaddling clothes represent and that is what we should see and praise Him for every time we look at the little baby Jesus every manger scene we see this Christmas.
J Todd Hostetler