For many years, my mother-in-law would give me a sweater for Christmas. Those sweaters were usually purchased at what I would call “an older ladies’ shop” and definitely spoke of my mother-in-law’s tastes rather than mine. I knew that she bought them in love so, in love, I would wear them at Christmas and if I went to a family dinner at their home.
As the years went by, I began to dread that flat rectangular box under the Christmas tree as it invariably held, what was for me, an “ugly Christmas sweater”. They weren’t really “ugly”, but a fuzzy, mint green sweater embellished with pearls, lace and sequins just wasn’t “de rigueur” for a gal in her twenties and early thirties.
Nowadays, ugly Christmas sweaters (those truly tacky Christmas themed ones) are all the rage. There are craft parties where everyone gathers together to make their own. And the traditional family Christmas photo shoot now features everyone wearing a different ugly Christmas sweater.
These sweaters feature reindeer with big red noses, fat Santas, frosty snowmen, gingerbread houses, Christmas trees, etc. Some even have lights and bells!
But, I must say that I have yet to see a Christmas sweater which features anything related to the true meaning of Christmas – that of the birth of Jesus.
When Jesus was born, he had his own version of a Christmas sweater. His mother wrapped him in “swaddling clothes”, according to the tradition of that time.
Luk 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Swaddling clothes described in the Bible consisted of a cloth tied together by bandage-like strips. After an infant was born, the umbilical cord was cut and tied, and then the baby was washed, rubbed with a small amount of salt and oil, and then with its legs together, and its arms at its side, it is wound around tightly with linen or cotton bandages four to five inches wide, and five to six yards long. These strips kept the newborn child warm and also ensured that the child’s limbs would grow straight.
The oriental swaddling-clothes consist of a square of cloth and two or more bandages. The child is laid on the cloth diagonally and the corners are folded over the feet and body and under the head, the bandages then being tied so as to hold the cloth in position.
In the book “Light Through an Eastern Window”, author Bishop K.C. Pillai states that wrapping the baby’s limbs in a straight position was a sign to God that the parents would raise the child to be straightforward before the Lord. The baby is left wrapped for a short time only while the parents pray and make vows to God concerning the raising of the child.
The salt rubbed into the child could have had several functions:
- To cleanse and strengthen the baby’s skin
- To prevent the souring of the swaddling clothes
- To symbolize spiritual cleansing and purification
- To indicate that the parents would teach the child to be truthful. In Eastern cultures, salt symbolized the virtues of truth and honesty and was used to make “salt covenants” which meant that the parties concerned could not lie or break their vow.
When the angel told the shepherds to go and find the new born Christ, the angel gave them a couple of important visual clues, one of which was that the baby would be wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Luk 2:9 – 11 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
I think that God mentioned swaddling clothes for a reason. The entire procedure of swaddling is very symbolic. The salt washing of the infant Jesus was a symbol of his purity and that he would grow up to tell “The Truth”.
2Co 5:21 For He [God] has made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Joh 18:37 Pilate then said to Him, Are you a king then? Jesus answered, You say it that I am a king. To this end I was born, and for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.
Joh 14:6 Jesus said to him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.
The oil symbolizes that Jesus was God’s anointed son.
Act 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and He went about doing good, and healing all those who were oppressed by the Devil, for God was with Him.
The wrapping of the baby Jesus’ arms and legs in a straight position symbolized that Jesus would walk straight (true) before God.
Mar 1:11 And there came a voice from Heaven, saying, You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
So what is the “well-dressed” person wearing for Christmas this year? My hubby and I have a tradition of wearing brand new Christmas pj’s – all day.
Whatever your Christmas outfit may be, I hope that underneath it all, we will all be wearing swaddling clothes – pure, straight and true for God.