Thursday, December 18, 2008

"swaddling clothes"

I hope your Advent is going well! Today something struck me that I never thought about before. Sometimes a word that we hear so often strikes us in a new way. Today, that word for me is "swaddling." The phrase "swaddling clothes" used at Christmas is so familiar. But the thought struck me, "What does swaddling really mean?" So I looked it up in the dictionary, and it comes from an Old English word meaning to wrap a baby up in bands. By extension, another meaning is to refer to limitations or restrictions placed on someone, especially an immature person. Only Luke uses the Greek word sparganoo and this means "to wrap in baby clothes."
So Mary wrapped Jesus up in baby clothes. It reminded me of the part in Genesis, shortly after the fall, when God made clothes for Adam and Eve. It's a very tender detail; even after they sinned, God still took care of little things like that for them!
The idea of being wrapped up is a symbol, perhaps, of the limitations that the Word of God took on at the Incarnation. As Paul says so beautifully in Philippians, Jesus humbled himself, emptied himself, gave up everything out of love for us. In Jesus' being bound in swaddling clothes, perhaps we can see a hint of how he would later be bound for our sins.

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