“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes…” ~ Luke 2:7a
The Bible is the Word of God and, therefore, everything in it is useful (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Accordingly, when reading the story of Jesus’ birth one might ask, “What is the significance of ‘swaddling clothes’?” “Why did God add that detail?” Indeed, none of the other births recorded in Scripture have this detail, which is mentioned twice (Luke 2:7, 12) in Jesus’ case.
The simple fundamental answer is that the swaddling clothes and the manger were useful details for the shepherds to find the baby Jesus (Luke 2:12). Nevertheless, when we consider the history, the process and the purpose of swaddling it paints a beautifully poignant picture.
Archaeological-historical findings suggest that swaddling was widely practiced at that time; so Mary wasn’t, necessarily, doing something unusual. Curiously, the process of swaddling entails wrapping a body with strips of cloth to restrict movement and it was typically practiced only twice in life: at birth and at death. At birth, babies were swaddled for various reasons including for comforting. While dead bodies were swaddled to keep them in close contact with the herbs and spices, needed to preserve the body from decay.
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.