Luke 2:12 says, “And this will be the sign to you: you will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
According to contemporary thinking, this is the sign to all of us. Not so. It was the sign to the shepherds on a Judean hillside, more than 2,000 years ago.
Jesus of Nazareth was not the first – or the last – babe wrapped in swaddling cloths. He was not the first – or the last – babe laid in a manger. So, how could it be a sign to us?
According to tradition, shepherds near Jerusalem were the prime suppliers of sacrificial lambs for Temple Worship. In order to keep them without blemish (which was required by Jewish law) the shepherds swaddled them (wrapped them in swaddling cloths) and laid them in a manger away from the other sheep.
So, when the angel made the announcement, “wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger,” the shepherds understood the meaning of the sign. This was the sacrificial lamb prophesied about in scripture. This was the lamb to be offered for the sins of all mankind.
Christmas is merely a time set aside to remember Jesus’ birth.
Loran Hugh Parker, Fresno