Today is the Lord’s Baptism Feast. It is our last day officially of Christmas season. Nicely, our Lord saw to it today to spread several inches of fresh snow over us! We got a White Christmas, even if on the last day of the celebration.
If you recall my Christmas homily theme, then you’ll remember how I preached with fascination on the two verses in Luke 2 that mentions Jesus in swaddling clothes. I spent some time wondering about the reason for that double-mention in the Christmas story of what Jesus was wearing.
Today, I return to those verses. The Gospel we had today was about Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, but that was 27 years after the Christmas story, and it’s quiet a leap historically, but I am have a link, and it IS all about baptism, and ourselves in the swaddling clothes. Come along for the meditation….
Luke points out twice that Jesus was the one in “swaddling clothes.” These two words are found in Luke’s Christmas Story, in Luke 2:7 and in Luke 2:12
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:10a, 11b-12
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, For unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
In a Bible Encyclopedia, the information for Swaddling Clothes is as follows: Swaddle is a bandage; it has come to be a word used to describe the wrapping of a newborn baby in pieces of cloth, depending on the income or financial state of the newborn parents. This wrapping of the infant to protect and keep the limbs of the child straight, was done until the child reach the age of one.
There is an interesting incident found in the Old Testament of how God speaks of swaddling clothes and the nation of Israel. It is seen of how God’s Son would wear the swaddling clothes as Favored by The Father, so that one day we could be the one receiving favor from God as clothed in the Son, and by His Spirit—and be the babe holy. The new born in Christ.
Ezekiel 16:3-6, 812
3 Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem; Your birth and nativity is of the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite, and mother a Hittite. 4 And as for your nativity…8 I (Thy Lord) passed by to you, and looked upon you, behold, this time was a time of love; and I spread my coverings over you, and indeed I swore a covenant with you…and you became mine. 9 Then washed I you with water; yes, I thoroughly washed away your blood-red stains, and I anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you also with broidered work… and I girded you about with fine linen, and I covered you with silk. 11 I decked you also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon your hands, and a chain on your neck 12. And I put a jewel on your forehead, and earrings in your lobes, and a beautiful crown upon your head.
God reminds Israel where they had come from and how they got to be where they were, it was because He came along and made them a people unlike all others. He used the description of what a mother does for her new born child. God says (verses 4-8) how they were thrown aside, unwanted, but then God came along and took them and, as a mother would a new born baby, cut the cord, washed them with salt and wrapped them with swaddling Clothes, God then saw to their development and provided what they needed to mature. God would ornament them as prized children, blessed by their Maker. He really dresses them royally in the finish.
This is a great illustration of what God has done with us; too, as His people today, as we too were cast aside in our sins and helplessness (original sin) but He passed by to see us and because of love He took us and washed us of our sins, and adopted us and made us a part of His family and swaddled us with his Holy Spirit Very wonderful! Can you notice Baptism as the connection here?
Baptism does do this spiritual swaddling for us. We have the start of Ezekiel’s prophesy, as the Lord calls us His own and spreads a covering over us, and looks over us with love, and washes us. He anoints us, as priest and prophet and king in Baptism—the fulfillment of a covenant promise said to Ezekiel.
Let us celebrate our Baptism is Christ.
1 Cor 6:11
And such were some of you: but you are washed, sanctified, and justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
And from Jesus Christ, who is the Faithful Witness, and the First Born of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him be glory, of the Lord Who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood.
The Swaddling Clothes that God places us in (AS IN A BAPTISMAL RELATIONSHIP IN HIM) is not for just a day or month or year, but as given to last forever. That’s His Plan.
God has a plan going all the time. Before Mary would swaddle her Jesus, and before Elizabeth would swaddle her John—the Plan was unfolding. We hear that as Luke’s prelude to Christmas.
Mary was informed by the angel Gabriel that her cousin Elisabeth was with child and that she was in her sixth month. Mary went to see her, way up in Judea, and Mary would have no doubt watched and learned from this aged women on how to handle her pregnancy and what to do when the child was born. There was a swaddling of John the Baptist to come, and the clothes/ garments he would have been offered to wear in infancy were likely the parts of priestly robes, cut down to size to lay the priest’s child in at birth. Mary would have been offered to take parts of priestly robes, too, since she was in the family line of priests of Jerusalem, and that she was clearly pregnant and in need of swaddling clothes. So she took the priest robe parts, too, of Zechariah, her high priest relative, and she saved them for Jesus’ birth. Jesus would be swaddled in these family, priestly cloths as His swaddling clothes. These would have saved from Mary’s trip back from Judea (at the Visitation) right into Bethlehem (for he Nativity) as the swaddling clothes of her baby boy. So (as I preached on Christmas Eve), we realize that Jesus had something on as a sign—in His swaddling clothes, which were special signs of priesthood, of His connection to Jerusalem by Mary, and His birth in a lineage of King David, by Joseph. All this happened quite secretly upon Jesus at Bethlehem, and He was dressed this way in swaddling clothes at His Presentation in the Temple.
Jesus wears these clothes as a secret sign of His dignity. Only Mary and Joseph and a few others knew of it.
When we get baptized, God dresses us in a Holy Dignity, too. We are anointed and washed clean of our sins, and something amazing takes places, even in the simple rites in the church.
It’s like another little Nativity scene at every Baptism.
It’s interesting that our baptism font has the Manger Set right next to it for Christmas time. Very apropos.
We are wrapped in swaddling clothes in Jesus’ Name at our Baptism. That is because we are already being prepared there for our resurrection.
For those who missed my Christmas Eve homily, I will repeat a part of it here as my finish.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
The angel told the shepherds that they would find a child that is wrapped in swaddling clothes, These are clothes of a babe, and they indicate the helpless state of care they are placed in, needy of parents. The shepherds knew that the new born King was a new-born babe come that night, and one wrapped up in traditional style. The Lion of Judah was coming as a lamb.
They found baby Jesus to be in the very place where the lambs would be kept. These lambs of Bethlehem would be taken to nearby Jerusalem for the ritual of the sacrifice of the unblemished lambs. This swaddled child was laying wrapped up even like the cloths that wrap up a man to be buried. (Recall Lazarus all wrapped up, and laid in the tomb, and Jesus calling forth Lazarus to rise and for his wrapping cloths to fall.)
Mary had wrapped the child and done what is called for the care of her new born. There is the interesting case later on of Mary with Nicodemus, John and Joseph of Arimithea, wrapping Jesus up in linens for his burial as the given Lamb of Sacrifice, even on Passover time. I believe that Mary had saved the baby garments, all through the 27 years of her son’s life, yes, the very swaddling clothes of His infancy, and that she put them onto the sarcophagus where Jesus lay for burial in the tomb off Golgotha’s hill. He was wrapped in a shroud, as they say, and I think some of the wrapping were Jesus’ swaddling clothes. Why? She believed in the Resurrection. Another grand Birth Moment was to come. On the Third Day, Jesus would arise.
Then, by Baptism, we too could arise in Christ to new life, and promise of resurrection. This is what that First Easter gave us. By Jesus’ Baptism, into His death, are we buried with Christ, so that we too could rise with Him. (Romans 6) We are in our swaddling clothes of Baptism, so to say now, as clothed in Christ, as the Scriptures say, and we are awaiting “the blessed hope and the coming (gloriously) of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (That is the prayer said at every Mass by the priest after the congregation prays the “Our Father.”).
The swaddling clothes at Jesus’ birth were clothes on the babe indicating that the mother was responsibly beginning her care for her child. Later, in Jesus’ being taken down from the Cross, Mary extends her care to her son, The Son of God. He is wrapped in clothes. She is caring for Him until He unveils The Blessed Mystery. JESUS IS LORD. TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.
Now, Jesus looks in His Resurrection and Ascension and Glorification, and He sees us. We are His children now. We are special to Him.
There is a great bible verse in Matt 18:10
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
So, we have angels given to us at our Baptism. They behold God’s face and they shine some light down on their ones to care for. God looks upon us, via them, and He looks on us with love.
The Church is asked to cherish (rather than despise) the little ones. We baptize the children.
They mean a lot to us.
Because we too are the children of God. We are all children before Him, whether 2 or 52 or 92.
For by grace are you saved through faith…: it is the gift of God:
2 Cor 9:15
Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.