Summary: This sermon carefully examines the second of three signs of Christmas to come in Luke 2:12 - the ever famous "swaddling clothes."
Luke 2:12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
The Second Sign of the Christmas to Come: Wrapped in Cloths
I. The sign isn’t useless
As a general rule, when people revolve their lives around what kind of clothes other people are wearing - when they go to fashion shows or have to shop at the mall for the latest and most hip trends - it seems like they’ve become materialistic. This is coming from someone who still wears jeans he had in college - but there’s a lot more important things in life than clothing. In a matter of stewardship - it seems to be bad stewardship to spend a hundred dollars on a pair of jeans or a thousand dollars on a dress when it could go to much more worthy causes. Some people need fashionable clothing in keeping with a job they have or may be able to afford it and still be generous with other causes. Others say that good clothes make you feel good. Yet Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:3-4, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” With these words, Peter is basically telling us not to base our beauty on the outside - God’s kind of beauty is not skin deep. He doesn’t say you can’t own outward adornment, he just tells us NOT to base our beauty on clothing.
In line with this, the second sign of the Coming One seems rather insignificant at best - as it talks about the clothing of the Christ. There were no other predictions about His clothing in the Old Testament or New Testament. I mean, honestly, who cares about what kind of clothes the Savior would be wearing? This isn’t a fashion show. Yet the angels mention it to the shepherds as the second of three signs to look for. A baby wrapped in cloths - or as the KJV says - in swaddling clothes. What it literally means in the Greek is strips of (that is - cut or ripped) cloth. It’s rather interesting how God does this at times - how He puts significance on items that we would just look over without a glance. The washing of an infant, the eating of bread and wine, things that seem common in life - take on special meaning when God’s Word points it out to us. That’s the KEY - God’s Word. God’s Word can turn any common item into greater worth than gold - much like the handkerchiefs and aprons that simply touched Paul were used to heal the sick and chase out demons. (Acts 19:12)
In this case, the angels especially point the shepherds to the strips of cloth. There are no other Biblical interpretations of this cloth. The most basic and safest understanding of these strips then would be that these humble means of clothing were meant to distinguish the baby from any other baby. They would first of all know which baby would be the Christ by the clothing he was wearing - not robes or meticulously stitched blankets of silk and tapestry - but mere strips of cloth. I don’t know whether this was a normal way of “clothing” babies back in Jesus’ day. I wasn’t able to read anything either for or against it. One commentator suggested that a tight wrap would help keep a baby’s limbs straight. Whether this is true or not - I don’t know. The overall sign of the mere strips of cloth seems to me to infer a sense of humility - there would be nothing flashy about this baby’s clothing. Just some strips of cloth wrapped around him - that’s all.
The more you think about these mere “strips of cloth” however, the more incredible they become. How so? Think about the very concept of who this baby is. Just in the previous verse, the angel said to the shepherds, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) This is Christ THE LORD. For the first time in the eternal history of our God - the Lord - He was wearing clothes. How can you put clothes on God? Even if you could, how could you find ones big enough? XXXXXXXXL? Not big enough! Yet here we see the LORD wearing strips of cloth!
II. The LORD is used to wearing clothes
In reality, this shouldn’t surprise us. Why? You see, our LORD has worn clothing more than once in His history. Throughout the Old Testament He wore different clothes. When He appeared to Elijah, He chose a gentle whisper. He wore fire in the desert. He wore an ark and resided in a temple. He clothed Himself in lightning and clouds and voice throughout the Israelites’ journey to Mt. Sinai and beyond. God has accustomed Himself to wearing different kinds of clothes. The surprising thing here is the size and majesty of these clothes - they were just mere strips of cloths. Instead of wearing a pillar of fire or coming in the clothes of a powerful man, God came in the flesh and blood of a tiny baby wrapped in little cloths.