What are Swadling Clothes & Manger?
“And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)
Two words jump out at me in that passage: “swaddling cloths”, and “manger”. We have heard that passage spoken and sung in Christmas carols so often, we quite possibly have little idea what those are. That is sad because they are packed with meaning more glorious than all the packed and wrapped presents under any Christmas tree!
First, did you notice the word “Babe” in this passage from Luke is capitalized. I am grateful the New King James Version took great care to respectfully, and rightly, capitalize the first letter of any reference to God (such as Him, His, He, or Lord), Babe refers to the Baby Jesus. The angel told Mary in Matthew chapter 1 to name the Baby “JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Also, a few verses later, Matthew reminds us of the prophet Isaiah who said He is to be called the title of ““Immanuel,” which is translated “God with us””. God “became flesh and dwelt among us”, is what John said about Jesus in John 1:14.
“Swaddling cloths” is an intriguing term because it’s not in our everyday vocabulary, we just assume it means a baby blanket. When our babies are born, we don’t wrap them in swaddling cloths. Good mothers wrap their babies in cloth, to protect their tender skin, and Mary did as well, especially since Jesus was laid in sharp pointed hay and grain. So why would the Bible use the term “swaddling cloths?” Is that some special or different cloth? Yes, they are grave cloths. They are strips of linen that people would wrap a dead body back in those days. Think mummy wraps. The symbolism here is amazing: It specifically tells us that Jesus was born to die. Not like everyone else dies, but He came to sacrifice Himself for us. His death paid the price or penalty of the sins of us all.
“Manger” is another term we don’t use today, and I grew up in Wyoming around farming, ranching, and even raised sheep. A manger is an old term for a feed trough. Since nearly all sheep were fed out in the fields, a manger, was a wooden or stone trough into which was put hay or grain to help nurture sick sheep back to health, or to feed sheep during stormy weather inside a barn or cave. A manger keeps the feed off of the ground so it’s kept pure. Again, the symbolism is amazing because the character and words of Jesus is pure truth, is nourishment during times of trouble, and for us all who are ill from sin and troubles.
Jesus is God who came so we may have life, and to have life more abundantly. (John 10:10) Jesus came to save sinners, and when ridiculed by the religious leaders of His day for spending time with the poor and sinners, Jesus said He does so because the well do not need a physician, the sick do. (Luke 5:31) We are all like sheep, and from the manger, comes the food of life. (John 6:35)
Jesus is who to turn to when stormy weather comes in our lives, when we are ill, and when we need nourishment. Much more than that, is He alone offers liberation from the penalty of our wrongs, if we confess them to Him in repentance, and accept His free (Christmas) gift of life of freedom forever. I did, and it’s the best decision I ever made!
Jesus is that little Baby, wrapped in swaddling cloths, laying in a manger, whose name is above all other names, born to die about thirty three years later as payment for our wrongs. He then rose again after being dead for three days and now sits at the right had of God the Father, and in front of whom every knee will bow, and every tongue will proclaim Him as King (that’s you and me). (Philippians 2:9-11)
He lovingly wants you to KNOW Him, to forgive your sins, and to give you life after you pass away here on earth, and a more meaningful life while you are still here. He alone is The Truth, The Life, and The only way to God. (John 14:6) It is super easy to do that, just talk to Him in prayer, tell Him you are sorry for sinning, and want Him to help you live better, He WILL listen, and WILL forgive your sins, and has paid the penalty of them for you. (1 John 1:9)
And THAT is what we celebrate at CHRISTmas time, and why we sing about swaddling cloths, and a manger! THAT is the best gift anyone could receive!