Luke 2:7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger…
Mary wrapped the newborn baby Jesus snugly in cloth. She swaddled him.
That’s such a funny word. Swaddle. It sounds more like a way to walk than a way to wrap up a baby. Swaddle – to walk like a duck while swerving around. Swaddle.
The Greek word that Luke uses sounds even funnier – sparganoo
It’s fun to say. Try it out!
Swaddle and sparganoo seem like rather undignified words to use in a story about the birth of our Lord and Savior. But let’s be honest – giving birth is a messy process. Dr. Stacy Dashiell reminded me last Sunday that babies come out slimy and goopy. Maybe we’d rather not think about that.
Maybe the wrapping in cloth was not just a way to keep warm, but also a way to cover over the messiness, much like our faith in Jesus covers our sins.
Isaiah 61:10 I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
Psalm 85:2 You forgave the guilt of your people—
yes, you covered all their sins.
Romans 4:7 Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
We are made right with God through our faith. It’s like a blanket statement. God is merciful and gracious. God forgives us all.
Luke 2:7 . . . She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth . . .
Every time I read that part, I have to read it twice, because my brain switches a couple of the words around so it says, “She wrapped him in snugly cloth.”
Do you have some snuggly cloth? What is snuggly cloth? In my mind, it’s soft and warm, like flannel. Maybe a blanket or a sweater. Our advanced manufacturing methods have gotten very good at producing soft fabrics. But the cloth that Jesus was wrapped in may not have been so soft. The most commonly available fabric in that time was wool, so it may have been itchy and scratchy.
Maybe that’s a fitting beginning for a baby who would grow up to challenge the status quo and bring about a tremendous reformation in our understanding of God. Mary already knew that the way ahead for Jesus would not be easy. She says in Luke 1:51-53:
51 [God’s] mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
Mary foresees a revolution in the birth of Jesus.
Luke 2:12 “And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
The angel tells the shepherds that the sign for recognizing Jesus is that he will be wrapped snugly in strips of cloth. Why is this the sign? It’s not particularly remarkable to wrap a baby in cloth.
God repeatedly uses ordinary things and ordinary people in extraordinary ways.
[cloth passing out] To help us think about this, we have a piece of cloth for each of you.
Hold on to this piece of cloth as a way to remember a moment in which God speaks to your heart, maybe through a verse of scripture, a beautiful sight. It could be something grand or something ordinary that connected you with God. Maybe just a single word. An attribute of God on which you rely.
What if you were to write a word on the cloth? Think about what that word would be.
May that word and this piece of cloth remind you of the blanket statement that God loves you more than you can imagine, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God we have in Jesus Christ.