One of the weightiest practices in Scripture was that of swaddling a child at birth.
She brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7 NKJV)
When we read this verse, most of us don’t realize what’s actually going on because we aren’t deeply familiar with the customs and culture of Jesus’ time. Mary didn’t just wrap Jesus in some blankets and set Him in the manger—she was doing a powerful ancient ritual with Him.
In Bible times when a child was born, the mother would take swaddling cloths and wrap the baby from head to toe, purposely immobilizing him, so the baby would be held straight without being able to bend or turn. This was done as a sign to the baby’s spirit that he was to walk uprightly before God and man all the days of his life. The swaddling clothes were left wrapped around the baby for three hours and then removed.
The angel who made the announcement to the shepherds in the field knew they would search for Jesus during that three-hour window, when the cloths were still wrapped around Him. Those cloths were a sign to them.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:11–12 ESV)
But the swaddling cloths weren’t just a sign to the shepherds—they were also a sign of Mary and Joseph’s faithfulness. Even though they were experiencing some significant stress points, given their situation, they still took the time to swaddle Jesus. They made sure to tell His Spirit to be true and straight before God all of His life, which is obviously what happened.
This one little glimpse into the birth story of Jesus is so fascinating! This article is based on chapter 1 of John Sandford’s book Loving Jesus More by Knowing the Customs and Culture of His Time. Click here to check it out!