There is so much more to the nativity story than what we first perceive. Isaiah 9:6-7 is prophetic foretelling Jesus and his ministry 700 years before he was born.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
Luke 2:1-20. “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
Mary and Joseph travelled about 70 miles to Bethlehem, while Mary was heavily pregnant. Joseph needed to be well prepared to take his pregnant wife on such a long and dangerous journey. What would happen if one of them died? Some people say swaddling cloths were used to wrap dead bodies! Since Jewish law declares a body has to be buried immediately following death, devout travelling Jews would wrap long strips of swaddling cloth around their waists, so if someone died on the way, the swaddling could be used as a burial shroud. Perhaps Joseph had come prepared!
Another Jewish tradition was that swaddling cloths were actually made from the priest’s garments that were no longer being worn. These special swaddling cloths would be saved for royalty. Since Mary went to visit Elizabeth, and her husband Zachariah had recently finished his service as a Priest, it is possible Elizabeth and Zachariah gave swaddling cloths to Mary for Jesus.
Either way it was very significant! When the angels appeared to the shepherds they said, “This will be a sign to you that you will find a baby wrapped in the manger wrapped in swaddling cloths!“
It has been said that the Shepherds, were “Levitical Shepherds” who raised the sacrificial lambs to be offered in the temple. They "kept watch” over the Temple’s flocks to ensure the lambs were not blemished while being born. They would bring the ewes into the shepherd’s caves so they could give birth safely to the lambs. Then they would wash the lambs in salt water in the manger before wrapping them in swaddling cloths, to protect them from injury because they had to be spotless. The cloths protected them from injury, since baby lambs can thrash about and harm themselves.
Suddenly we understand why the shepherds got excited by the message from the angels, “You will find a baby lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.” The shepherds witnessed a baby born that had been born in the same place as the Passover lambs, swaddled like a Passover lamb, but unlike the Passover lambs born to take away one person’s sin, Jesus was born to take away all the sins of the world!
John 1:29 As Jesus comes to John to be baptized, John said “Look! There He is – God’s lamb! He will take away the sins of the world!”
Many years later Jesus was the Lamb of God as He died upon the cross. He gave his life to pay the price for my sin, your sin and the sin of every one of us. Jesus won the victory over every sin and sickness on our behalf.
Take hold of Jesus today, not just baby Jesus but Jesus the lamb of God who paid the price for your sin so that you can live knowing you are precious and so, so loved by God.