THE BABY JESUS
Luke 2:7 and 12
I was wondering how swaddling clothes could be a sign to the shepherds. Weren't all babies wrapped up in clean cloths? And even then, what might it mean?
So I looked up the Hebrew and Greek and, of course, there is so much wonderful symbolism drawing on earlier Biblical imagery. It seems the word for "swaddling" (Hebrew chatal) is used only in three places in the Old Testament and each refers to a different "infant."
First, Jeremiah refers to the "swaddled infants" - literal innocent newborn children in Judah - who were killed by order of the King of Babylon in Lamentations 2:22. Some scholars point out that Luke's not mentioning the slaughter of the babies by Herod is a glaringly irreconcilable difference between his record and Matthew's, but this word may have been his way of "getting past the censor's" of the Roman society he lived in. A JEW reading his book would catch this reference and remember Herod's infamous order as copying the slaughter by the King of Babylon.
Next, Ezekiel (16:1-14) records the Lord speaking of the birth and nativity of the whole House of Israel. He reminds them that they were an unwanted newborn girl, left unwashed, unanointed, and unswaddled, left to die in an open field. But then the Lord passed by and, in spite of all the blood and pollution, He caused Israel to live. He swaddled her, nourished and carried her all the way to Sinai where Israel (now the grownup bride) was again washed, anointed and clothed, this time in marriage (Hebrew chatan) garments, to make covenants with the bridegroom on the mountain temple there.
Finally, in Job 38, the Lord reminds Job of the birth of the earth, when the sea broke forth as if it [the earth]issued out of the womb. Then the Lord swaddled the newborn pure and innocent earth with clouds and soft darkness. Recall that in the Old Testament, clouds are a common symbol indicating the presence of the Lord. Later He would send the Dayspring (see Luke 1:78) to bring light and, after shaking the wicked off the earth, He would press His name into the soft clay of the earth, sealing (Hebrew chatam) it His.
Birth and death, marriage and sealing, washing, anointing and clothing, real and restored innocence: it's all there in the sign of the swaddling clothes.
What an awesome opportunity for Mary and Joseph, to wash and anoint and clothe, to nourish and carry and teach the very LORD of heaven and earth. But is not every child born in His image and through His tokens of blood and water and spirit (see Moses 6:59)? Every parent can swaddle and cuddle and sing lullabies with the angels to their own divine children, for each comes 'trailing clouds of glory from heaven, which is their home.' (Wordsworth)
This next activity is from Jeni Brinton Gouchnour's book, "24 Days 'Till Christmas." Please do not use it for any commercial purpose.
This fold-up manger is a good one to use with the family service activity where you put a piece of hay on the manger for each act of service you do, making His bed soft.