"And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2:12
Such a familiar passage. And yet it actually speaks a different language. It was a language the shepherds understood. And the angles knew the shepherds would know the deeper meaning when they heard of Jesus' birth that night. The message spoke of things both present and future. And as we so often find in Scripture, there was much more significant meaning to those words than most of us in our modern, western world understand. So let's break it down.
Location of Christ's birth was Bethlehem. Ancestral home of King David from the line of Boaz. The hills around Bethlehem were home to thousands of lambs. These were not just any lambs. Hundreds of these lambs were used for the daily and annual sacrifices. Within the span of one year, Bethlehem probably saw the birth of over 770 sacrificial lambs.
Watching over the flocks in Bethlehem were not just any shepherds. In order for a lamb to be deemed as a sacrificial lamb, the shepherds had to be trained for this holy act. These shepherds were priests in the temple. They understood the instructions given in the law of Moses about the qualifications of the lambs offered on the altar. And it was their responsibility to daily keep watch over these flocks.
Swaddled. Christ was swaddled. But what was so important that the angels gave this detail to the shepherds? It was a practice they used for preparing the sacrificial lambs. When lambs were birthed, they were placed in a hewn depression in the manger, or Tower of the Flock, in Bethlehem. Here they wrapped swaddling cloths around the lambs to prevent any thrashing around in order to keep them from 'spot or wrinkle.'
It was all there that night. Both the present and the future. The present events were very real. A woman travailed in pain to bring forth a baby. And a baby was swaddled to become the future sacrifice.
It was God's gift of love given to us that day wrapped in torn strips of cloth, held tenderly by a young woman who would one day shed tears on a hill of death. It was all very present that night. And it is still present today. No matter where we are today, His swaddled gift of love still speaks of future hope. And it is there for all who hear the message and go seek the gift.
Embrace His wrapped up gift of love today! It really is such JOY!