There is one interesting feature in the Christmas story that we oftentimes just read through and do not ponder its significance. This detail is the description of Luke 2:12 that the sign of the Savior that the shepherds should look is a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Why is the swaddling clothes significant?
By pointing out that Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes, it signified that Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb of God.
The Greek word sparganoó talks about the practice of wrapping new born male lambs by the shepherds. This practice was especially done by shepherds in Bethlehem because they were the ones who provided the Temple of Jerusalem the sacrificial lambs. They swaddled the new born male lambs so that it will not move, and then they can inspect it for blemishes.
Imagine the work of the shepherds in Bethlehem during the 1st Century — an estimated 5 to 7 million Jews lived in Israel during that time, and 1 lamb was needed per family to be sacrificed every year in the Temple during the Passover Feast. So more or less, the shepherds needed to take care of about 300,000 sacrificial lambs.
Now, factor in that background, and you will now appreciate the context of why Luke mentioned that feature.
When the angel declared this specific detail to the shepherds, they were excited to see the baby because they knew that the “once and for all sacrificial lamb” was born to take away the sins of the world. Later, John the Baptist declared that Jesus is the Lamb of God, and 1 Peter 1:19 tells us that Jesus Christ is the “lamb without blemish or defect.”
The shepherds were excited to share this good news to others because they knew what they were talking about. Let us be excited also to share Jesus Christ, not just during Christmas season but in all seasons of our lives.
May God bless us all!
Rev. Francis Neil G. Jalando-on
Director, Office of Communications
Central Philippine University