Most of us know how the shepherds were told by an angel “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:21 ESV). The sign given to them was “you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12 ESV). Since we are not familiar with many Jewish customs, this sign has not meant much to most of us. These shepherds who were in the vicinity of Bethlehem and Jerusalem would have been those who took care of sheep meant for temple sacrifice. When a lamb was born, it often thrashed around and sometimes got hurt in the process. But Leviticus 22:20 (ESV) says “You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you.” So to keep the lamb safe and un-blemished, shepherds seemed to have had a habit of wrapping their lambs in swaddling cloth and put it in the manger away from the other sheep! New born Jewish babies seem to have been usually dressed in baby clothes and not normally wrapped in swaddling cloth! When these temple shepherds were given the sign of baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger by the angel, it was the perfect sign that the baby was the true Lamb of God that they had been eagerly waiting for!
Another interesting custom was that before a lamb was taken for sacrifice, it was cleaned and its legs were again swaddled so that it will not become dirty and it was carried over the shoulders to the temple for sacrifice. When Jesus entered Jerusalem a few days before his crucifixion, he didn’t walk in! Matthew 21:7-8 (ISV) says “they brought the donkey and the colt and put their coats on them, and he sat upon them. Many people in the crowd spread their own coats on the road, while others began cutting down branches from the trees and spreading them on the road.” Another proof that Jesus was indeed the true Lamb of God!
Hebrews 9:22 (ESV) says “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Hebrews 9:28 (ISV) says “The Messiah was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.” With this fresh understanding, spend some time this Christmas meditating on how God prepared Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to be our perfect lamb to take away our sins. If you have not believed on his sacrifice to cleanse you from your sins, this is the perfect time to do it.
Wish you all a blessed Christmas and a happy 2019.