They say that clothes make the man. In other words, what you wear tells the world who you are. Kings wear stunning robes. Beggars wear tattered rags. Doctors, nurses, and police officers all wear clothing specific to their occupation. The clothes you wear say an awful lot about who you are, what you do, and your standing in the world.
Isaiah 9:6 promised a Savior, a Mighty God, but the beginning of that verse starts simply: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Luke writes about his birth. Listen to how he was dressed after he was born: “She brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger” (Luke 2:7 KJV).
This Mighty God was wrapped in “swaddling clothes!” Mary wound strips of cloth around the newborn Jesus’ body, and these humble Christmas linens became the first outfit ever worn by Christ. Like all clothing, these garments tell us a great deal about the Person who wore them. Swaddling clothes were the wrappings of poverty. Poor families in that time and place wrapped their infants in whatever spare cloth was available. The threadbare fabric that hugged the newborn Jesus’ body is exactly what you would expect for someone born in a stable; it makes sense that a child born to a symphony of bleating barnyard animals would be wrapped in rags.
The Christmas linens worn by Jesus also remind us of the clothing worn by household servants and slaves. In this sense, Jesus’ first clothing tells us that he came into our world to be a servant. And serve he did!
Beginning at his lowly birth in a humble cattle stall, the Son of God served his own creation - think about the miracle here! The God of the universe served us! He served by miraculously feeding the hungry. He served by miraculously healing atrophied limbs. He served by miraculously raising the dead. He served by proclaiming the truth - a miraculous, marvelous truth, the truth of God’s love and forgiveness for sinners! He served, by living a life of righteousness, and by showing love and compassion to those around him. Then, in the most profound act of service imaginable, Jesus gave up his innocent life in payment for human sin - for your sin and mine. A miracle of love!
Interestingly, Luke mentions strips of cloth in chapter 2 of his Gospel, as the story of our Savior’s life and death is just getting started. Then, he mentions them again - in chapter 23, as that story seemingly ends in the tomb of our Savior.
Luke describes Jesus’ burial, telling us about a man named Joseph from a village called Arimathea:
This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid (Luke 23:52–53 KJV).
At his birth, Jesus’ body was placed in a manger, a food trough for animals, in which no child had ever before been laid. At his death, Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb in which no corpse had ever before been laid. At Jesus’ birth, a man named Joseph - Joseph of Nazareth - gazed upon the infant Jesus.
At Jesus’ death, a different Joseph - Joseph of Arimathaea - gazed upon Jesus’ lifeless corpse. The linens Jesus wore on the day of his birth foreshadowed the linens he would wear on the day of his death.
But that is not the end of the story. Linens come up one more time in Luke’s Gospel. Three days after his death, the burial linens that Joseph had tenderly draped around Jesus’ dead body were found neatly folded and lying on the shelf, carved from rock, on which his body had once lain. Our Lord had completed his service; he lived a perfect life in our place, died our death on his cross, and now has miraculously conquered death for us.
God had sent his Son into the world and watched as Mary wrapped that Child in the clothing of a servant. Some thirty years later, God had watched Joseph wrap that Son’s body in a linen shroud and place it in a tomb. Three days later, the Father raised his Son from death. Jesus folded the linens of servitude and poverty and laid them aside. In their place, our victorious Savior donned a robe of resurrected majesty!
From swaddling clothes to burial linens to the royal robe of heavenly splendor, Christ was born to serve, to save, and, ultimately, to reign. Who would have thought that this Mighty God would come to us gift wrapped in rags and lying in a manger?
Christ put on rags so that you can be clothed in his very own righteousness. In this sense, clothes really do make the man. And the woman. And the child! Without Christ, we wear nothing more than the rags of our own sinfulness, the garments of greed, lust, anger, and death. But in Christ, we wear the splendor of his resurrected glory. Wearing this, we display to others Christ’s own righteousness, his love, compassion, peace, and life.
I pray that you will rejoice throughout this Christmas season, knowing that you are enfolded in the robe of salvation won for you in love by Jesus Christ himself.
Editor’s note: Today’s devotion comes from CTA’s new Ministry Message A Child Is Born. Use this devotion during the Advent season and be sure to order your Ornaments of Faith® today!
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