WHAT ARE “SWADDLING” CLOTHES?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Luke chapter 2 is a passage read and heard every Christmas. It opens with the following: “ And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David: )  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
We surely know of the “swaddling clothes” with which Mary the virgin wrapped around the body of her Child, the Baby Jesus. The angel of the Lord relays the message to the vigilant shepherds off in a nearby pasture: “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (verse 12). But, what in the world are these “swaddling clothes” of which we hear so often at Christmastime?
Our English word “swaddling” is the frequentative (recurring, repeating form) of another English term—“swathe.” The idea here is binding with strips or layers of fabric. In a crude sense, we can picture the ancient Egyptians wrapping a body to make a mummy. When Mary took the little Christ Child and wrapped Him with swaddling clothes, she was following an Oriental or Eastern custom of the day. This procedure provided warmth to His small body. Moreover, parents in this culture wrapped their newborns tightly with cloth to make their bones grow straight. There, in a tight, tiny bundle was the Saviour of all mankind!
Imagine! The Almighty Creator God took upon Himself human flesh, and reduced Himself to such a weak, fragile state. He entered Mary’s womb, taking on fleshly “clothes.” Growing little by little every day, He was finally delivered after nine months. His first cries were heard as air was forced into His lungs. He let Himself be wrapped in strips of cloth. For the next 30 years, He matured into a Man… born just to die for our sins!
Philippians chapter 2: “ Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:  But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
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