Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Wrappings

I love Christmas presents!  Some people will go to great lengths in giving this time of year.  Some will give extravagant and expensive presents while others will not be able to give anything.  I recently read about some of the most expensive presents from Neiman Marcus.  Nothing says Merry Christmas like a $90,000 gaming machine, a $99,500 water-propelled jetpack, a $250,000 private dinner for 10 featuring four famous chefs, or his and her submarines for $587,000. 
Scripture says it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).  I always have my wife’s gifts wrapped professionally as opposed to my amateur attempts at wrapping.  Ladies listen up.  Wrapping paper for men is just an obstacle to either keep us from what we really want or a tool of Satan to get us in the flesh as we try to keep an expensive present looking that way.  God gave us the greatest present.  In fact, the wise men were not the originators of the Christmas present, God was!  Luke 2:12 tells us, “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” God did not wrap Jesus in royal garments and lay Him on silk sheets in a gold baby bed.  Jesus came in simple swaddling cloths.
Swaddling seems like a cute word.  But it really means “strips”.  Jesus was wrapped in strips of cloth, not a whole baby blanket (which did not even exist at the time).  Traditionally, Jews would carry strips of cloths around with them wherever they went.  They were not to touch a dead body and in case they came in contact with one, they would pull out the cloths strips to move the body.  On long journeys, Jews would also take along thin, gauze-like cloth and wrap it around their waist many times beneath their clothing.  It was reserved for injury but mostly death.  If someone died during the journey, their friends or family would remove the "swaddling cloth" and wrap it around them to complete the journey.  Many women and babies died during childbirth during that time.  These cloth strips would be used to wrap the dead mothers and stillborn babies before burial.  In fact, Rachel, Jacob’s wife, was buried in Bethlehem and every Jew knew that (Genesis 35:19).  Perhaps Mary had the thought that she was being sent to Bethlehem for this great honor of birthing God’s son but then she would die.  She was prepared with strips of cloth ready for her death.
Instead, Jesus was born and wrapped in these swaddling cloths.  Jesus was wrapped in burial clothes.  Joseph also had these cloths wrapped around his waist.  How appropriate.  At His birth, Jesus was wrapped in the very type of cloths He would be buried in.  Amazingly, the baby Jesus was wrapped in the death clothes of his earthly father Joseph, and thirty three years later was buried in the tomb of a different man named Joseph. Another amazing point is the Magi brought the young boy Jesus gifts of gold representing his kingship, frankincense symbolizing his priestly role, and myrrh prefiguring his death and embalming (Matt. 2:11).  While they celebrated Jesus’ arrival as king, they recognized His reason for coming to earth. He came to die.  Luke 2:12 tells us the swaddling cloths will be part of the "sign" to everyone of His true identity as the Savior.  The greatest wrapped gift of all was Jesus.  He was wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger so that we could be wrapped in His righteousness and go to heaven.

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