February 10, 2014
From the desk of Dr. A.J. Higgins
The Distinctive Sign
“This shall be a sign unto you;
ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
Ezekiel watched, with sadness, as the glory of God slowly departed from the Temple and the city. God was no longer able to dwell amongst His idolatrous and backslidden people. That was almost 600 years earlier. Ezekiel was gone; he had served his generation. He never saw the glory return. Within another 200 years, God ceased speaking through His prophets and almost 400 years of silence from heaven prevailed.
But suddenly one evening, as shepherds kept flocks on some Judean hill, the glory returned. We read that “the glory of the Lord shone round about them.” It was to shepherds and not to prophets or priests. It was not in Jerusalem but outside on the Judean hills. As awe-inspiring as the display of glory must have been, it was overshadowed by the message of the angel.
That very night there was born in Bethlehem a Savior Who was none less than Christ the Lord. Minds must have reeled and imaginations likely were working. What home? What estate? What fortunate parents had borne this child? And then came the least expected words: “the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
Forget the sentimental and touching manger scenes on display at Christmas. If this was a stable, imagine the dirt, odors and discomfort it entailed. If it was merely a stone ledge in some deserted corner of the yard, all the more touching. But don’t miss the import of what the angel said. Amongst all the infants which may have been in Bethlehem, there would only be One Who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Here was a sign of unmistakable accuracy. The shepherds could not go wrong if they looked for these signs.
The poverty linked with His incarnation marked Him out from all others. A Savior, Christ the Lord, in a manger; the dependent yet lovely person of the Lord Jesus. His life would end with Him lying in a tomb; it began with Him lying in a manger. No less dependent in His death and burial than at His birth.
1. The sign to the Magi with their wealthy gifts was a star in the sky. The sign to lowly shepherds was a babe in swaddling clothes. How is each consistent with the theme of each Gospel?
2. In Luke 2:26, Simeon was waiting for the Lord’s Christ. The angel announced the child as Christ the Lord. The Lord’s Christ was none less than Christ the Lord.
3. Look up the other references to ‘swaddling’ in the Word of God.