When our first son was born with a nasty case of colic, the nurses showed us how to swaddle him up tight. It helped calm him a bit, but since the colic didn’t go away for six months, I eventually learned to swaddle with the efficiency of a rodeo calf roper. I could swaddle that kid up in about seven seconds flat, throw my hands up in the air, and look to the imaginary judges for my score.
It’s interesting, in this greatest of stories, that Luke provides us with the information that the baby Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes or, as the NLV has it, “wrapped snugly in strips of cloth” (Luke 2:12). The purpose of swaddling is to keep a baby warm and feeling secure. In short, the tightly-folded cloth mimics the security and familiarity of the womb. The fact that Luke mentions such a humble detail points to the emphasis of the first half of the passage:
Jesus comes to us in the simplest, most vulnerable form we can understand.
A few verses later, and apparently at about the same time as the birth, we’re told that an angel announces the miracle to the shepherds and is then “joined by a vast host of others–the armies of heaven–praising God and saying,
Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased” (Luke 2:13-14 NLV).
There could not be a greater contrast between the lowly and the magnificent in these two scenes. Here, in these fourteen verses, is our entire story: the suffering, deprivation and fear–the exaltation, the majesty and victory. It reminds us that God, the full splendor of God, is with us in our weakness and always will be.