Luke 2:6-7 (NLT)
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
The austerity of the moment is found in three simple words; strips of cloth.
Perhaps it is their youth and inexperience that caused a failure to pack something as simple as a baby blanket. It could have been the haste to leave Nazareth for the census count that accounted for the missing garment. Or perhaps it was simply a lack worldly possessions that resulted in this shortfall. But one has to ask, were there no baby showers thrown to bestow gifts to the new couple and this Prince of Peace? Were there no hand-me-downs from cousins, aunts, and uncles for this new mother and her Son of God?
Whatever the reason, Mary and Joseph lacked a mantel for their newborn. Instead, the King of all Creation is wrapped in simple strips of cloth and placed into a makeshift bassinet; a food trough for barnyard animals.
This Royalty of Heaven arrives as a helpless infant, dependant on the only two humans who truly knew his place in the universe. And yet, their meager ability to care for him is evident from the very beginning. Where there should be a throng of attendants meeting his every need, he is watched closely only by the livestock in nearby pens. Where velvet cushions should support his weak and tiny frame, a mere bed of straw served as his mattress. Where a palace of lofty rooftops and marble floors should be his dwelling place, a series of wooden rafters cover his head and a dirt and manure floor is underfoot.
In an interesting parallel, the book of John notes that when Jesus died, the scene is repeated, “Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth.” (John 19:40 – NLT)
It is said that when Gandhi died, he possessed nothing more than a couple pair of sandles, his reading glasses, pocket watch, toothbrush, and a few small items.
Jesus lived his life in much the same way. Possessions mattered little compared to his purpose. Comfort was secondary to the cause. When he was born, Jesus was wrapped in cloth because that is all Mary and Joseph had. When he died, it was all he needed. From birth to death, the Savior of the World had nothing more than his name and the name of his Father…And in the end, that is just enough.
High King of Heaven, who entered this world born into humble surroundings, wrapped in nothing more than strips of cloth for your royal garment, may we forever be grateful for the humility you showed, the sacrifice you made, the love you brought.