Strips of Cloth

swaddlingSwaddling clothes. As a boy those words confused me. What did it mean that Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes?

After the birth of my daughter, I learned that to swaddle means to wrap your baby tightly in a blanket. Babies love that snug feeling.

Jesus, however, was not wrapped in an ultra-soft blanket or clothed in a cute onesie. Swaddling clothes weren’t really clothes at all. Swaddling clothes were strips of cloth. Swaddling clothes were rags.

Jesus was wrapped in rags and laid in an animal’s feeding trough.

The point of Christmas isn’t that a cute baby was born in an idyllic stable surrounded by cows softly lowing, visited by cute shepherds as angels quietly hummed in the background.

I call that the cute-ization of Christmas and it is a subtle distortion of the devil.

As Christians, we know that Christmas isn’t about Santa and Rudolph and presents. But we can keep Christ in Christmas and still miss the whole point.

Christmas is about the all-powerful Lord and King of the universe leaving behind his glorious throne in heaven to be wrapped in rags and laid in an animal’s feeding trough.

But why did God do that? Why did he leave behind the glory of heaven to be born in a barn? To answer that question, we need look at another occasion when Jesus was wrapped in strips of cloth.

When Jesus was crucified, he was stripped of his clothes. He hung naked from the cross, covered in a simple loin cloth. His clothes were divided among the soldiers as a part of their pay.

When Joseph of Arimathea removed Jesus’ body from the cross, he took Jesus to his new tomb and wrapped his body in strips of linen cloth, as was the custom of the day.

Jesus was wrapped in strips of cloth at his birth and his death.

But just two days later, when the disciples found the stone rolled away from the tomb, they looked inside. And what did they see? The strips of cloth were neatly folded where Jesus’ body had been. Jesus is now clothed in glory.

Strips of cloth tie Christmas, Good Friday and Easter together.

So often, we try to celebrate Christmas separately. But Christmas by itself simply becomes the joy of a birth, a baby and cute Children’s programs.

Christmas has no meaning without Good Friday and Easter. Jesus was born in order to die. He died in order to rise. And when we remember that, we find the true joy of Christmas.

This last week, a young teacher from our local grade school was suddenly killed in a car accident. I had the painful privilege of sitting with her third grade class as they were told. Their hearts broke. I can only imagine the hurt her husband, her parents and her family are feeling right now.

If Christmas is just about a cute baby being born, there can be no joy for that teacher’s parents this year. Their baby girl died. How could they ever celebrate Christmas again?

But Christmas means more than the joy of a baby being born. Christmas means that God loved us so much he came to this earth to suffer the punishment we deserve for all the stupid and ugly things we do and say.

Jesus died your death, but he isn’t dead. Those strips of cloth are folded neatly where his body lay. Jesus is alive and is clothed in glory.

And so is that teacher. She believed in Jesus. She is in heaven. Her family, her friends and her students will see her again because Jesus was born in Bethlehem to die on Calvary and rise from the grave for them as well. That is the true joy and peace of Christmas.

So this year, don’t celebrate Christmas without the cross. Don’t celebrate Christmas without also celebrating Good Friday and Easter.

They are all tied together with strips of cloth.

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  4 comments for “Strips of Cloth

  1. December 22, 2015 at 8:00 am

    Nicely said and very true.

    I think the little baby aspect of Christmas is good for very young children, and it’s also attractive to nonbelievers who may have the first budding stirrings of curiosity about this Jesus.

  2. Marilyn
    December 22, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Thank you so very much for this meaningful devotion. I have shared it with my hearing loss group in TX. Merry CHRISTmas!

  3. December 26, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    It was good you could be there when the children heard the terrible news about this teacher. I am so sorry this happened, they will never forget it. Thank you for writing this posting!

  4. Brenda McIntosh
    December 21, 2018 at 11:31 am

    I want to share with you my thoughts on Christmas after reading several sad emails this morning. My posting on my own blog follows:
    Merry Christmas, Friends! This morning as I have been breezing along through my email and Facebook notifications, I am acutely made aware of the fact that not all my friends are happy. Holidays bring sadness to many. The loss of friends or family around this time of year is painful and mixed with so much emotion. Let me tell you my story. Parts of it are sad but not entirely a sad saga. A few minutes after midnight on Christmas night 1975, my mother died, passed, went to heaven, expired, gave it up, was gone. You see, anyway I say it, it is difficult. The words seem harsh, cold, and final. I knew this dark cloud would always hang over Christmas in years ahead and oh, how I wanted that thought to go away!

    1976 was a year of firsts – first Mother’s day without Mom, first birthday without Mom, first spring flowers, first Thanksgiving. I assume you understand how difficult those days were but Christmas was coming again! Four children excitedly awaiting Santa, pageants, traditions and all that accompanies the season. I swallow hard even now just thinking about it! How would I make it through? Again I say slowly, FOUR CHILDREN and all those others in the family suffering. After praying hard about the dilemma, I made this decision. I would allow myself to enjoy my memories while I created new ones with my own children. We made cookies and candies, we went caroling in the night, we shared secrets of gifts and wrapped them in love. I chose a Christmas card to send to my friends to let them know I was O.K. There was no picture of Santa or toys or my beloved Rudolph but a simple Angel among the clouds!

    I have made it a habit to allow myself a grieving period of limited time each year and then I move on. Mom will always be part of my Christmas but only the happiness she brought to life will be etched there for eternity. Each time I eat a homemade Christmas cookie, I remember the love that was put into the making. Just a few days ago my own daughter made banana bread and as the aroma filled the house I felt the love. You see she was not allowed to eat that which she had prepared while fasting for an upcoming test. I think of the moms across town making cookies for children’s parties. I look at special ornaments and the memories they conjure up bringing laughter and maybe a few tears to my eyes. I see gaily wrapped packages and recall shopping in crowded stores and hearing the sounds of Christmas all around. I see Santa perched on his sleigh to welcome young visitors! I recall the ‘family’ gift my husband gave each year to all of us. You never knew what to expect! I hear the music playing everywhere and even as I hear “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, I am able to laugh. But the beauty of “Silent Night, Holy Night” makes me hear church bells and I remember…………

    I will not let anything destroy or pilfer my special days ahead. You see, this is a day of hope and love. We celebrate the birth of a precious baby, our Lord and Savior! Happy Birthday Jesus.

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