Yes, Mary had a baby! It's hard to fathom the God of the universe being nursed by a young girl who served as the mother of God. Yes, if we are going to say that Jesus was born, then we have to also realize that meant Jesus wet his diaper, (and the other), he had to learn to walk, talk, etc. And he cried! Let's look once again at this story that never grows old.
"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world....And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:1-7)
Luke takes the time to explain how the expecting couple arrived in Bethlehem. Matthew just mentions that Jesus was born there. Only Luke tells us that Jesus was born in a manger. Did you notice just how the baby was referred to along the way. Luke works hard to not associate this child with Joseph: Mary...who was expecting a child..(not Joseph's child), Mary gave birth "to her firstborn..." Interesting!
Before I go into what I want us to see today I want to share with you my experience while visiting Bethlehem. When you visit Israel you will notice at the beginning that a church is built over the site of any event that occurred in Jesus' ministry. If you visit the Garden of Gethsemane, there is a church. Visit the site of the Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount) there is a church, etc. Yes, if you visit the site where Jesus was born there is a church. In fact, the group I was with waited three hours in line to see the exact spot where Jesus was born. (or at least they told us it was the exact spot.) Inside the church there were kerosene lanterns hanging about six feet apart along each wall. They were lit. Some folks got sick due to the fumes and had to be taken out. Others were so woozy they didn't know if they were sick of not. Those of us who survived, (I was just getting hungry...my wife warns not to take me anywhere unless I have eaten.) made it to the area where we would see the birth spot. We had to walk down steep stairs and then when we got to the basement were told to peak under this cement slab (that's what I referred to it as). I asked, "What are we looking at? (By that time I forgot why we were there.) Someone said, "Why...that's the spot where Jesus was born!" I'm like, "Good! Can we eat now?"
We are told that Mary wrapped the baby in cloths. The common understanding of this was that the "wrapping in cloths, or swaddling cloths, was a foreshadowing of Jesus' burial. It is often said that Jesus was born to die. Well, Jesus did die, but I will suggest that long before he died he lived for us. If Jesus just came to this world to die for us, then why did he live as long as he did? If he was to be a sacrifice for sins and that only, then why did the babies die when Herod went on a rampage? Why didn't God just let Jesus die in their place? No, he was born to live also. In fact, it has been discovered that the average life expectancy for a male Jew in the time of Jesus was twenty-seven. (this is due to the high infant death rate, etc. Yes, men still grew old, but this is the average age) This means that Jesus lived longer than many male Jews. (We will see his given age in a few days.) Well, didn't these swaddling cloths indicate burial? No. Not here. Keep in mind each gospel is different. Luke portrays Jesus differently as John does in his gospel. (we will discover this) Jesus had a mission he was to accomplish while here. (we will see this in a few chapters.)
So, what were the swaddling clothes about? If you recall while studying Matthew's account of the birth we discovered that Joseph named the baby. We discovered that in that day the father either claimed the child or denied the child. (Paternity was legal) The mid-wives would lay the child at the feet of the father and if the father picked the child up and named the child then he claimed the child. In Matthew the angel of the Lord asked Joseph to embrace the will of God by claiming, and naming a child that was not his. Joseph did just that. Now, in Luke the angel appears to Mary. Mary is given quite a task. Sure, she says yes at the beginning, but what about when this baby comes along? It's one thing to think you want a baby, yet quite another to have a nurse hand one to you and say, "He's all yours!" (I used "he" because no nurse ever said to me "she's all yours! LOL) How does Mary respond? By wrapping the child in swaddling cloths. O.K., here's where I am going with this. In the Old Testament swaddling was a sign of maternal nurture. In Ezekiel 16:4 the lack of swaddling was a sign of neglect. In fact, it implies infanticide. In the Wisdom of Solomon 7:4-5 (not in Protestant Bible) we discover something interesting: "I was nursed with care in swaddling clothes. For no king has had a different beginning of existence." Wow! The author says I had the same love at home at my beginning as any king. When Mary swaddles this newborn baby, she, though poor herself, wraps this baby Jesus as though he were a king. She wraps the Son of God in all the love she can give him.
When Zander was born Melody and I thought the kid hated both of us. He was hateful and cried all the time and I swear he even gave us dirty looks. Our other three boys slept all night long and were relatively good babies. Zander came along when Melody and I were much older and not as able to handle a crying baby. We had to tag team at night just so we could get some sleep. One night we took him to the United Methodist Women's meeting at the church I was appointed to serve. We had no choice but to take Zander. Zander, as we expected, started crying. He kept crying and would not stop. Finally, one of the ladies, a nurse, took Zander. She took his blanket and began wrapping it around him as tight as she could wrap it. It was so tight I thought she was going to squeeze the kid to death. He did stop crying. I thought she killed him. No, he was content. She said, "It reminds him of being back in the womb." She swaddled him. Zander still has that blanket and still goes to sleep with it.
I want to take this opportunity to wish each and everyone of you a Merry Christmas. Thank you for joining me for this study. I hope you are still enjoying it, and that you may even learn something new. I pray that the new year is a great one for all. This past year has been filled with ups and downs as every year is, but God has been there the whole time. God bless you! -Pastor Rick