PRESS RELEASE – Luke 2:7 (KJV) “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.”
Beloved in Christ, Christmas greetings to you, as we once more celebrate the joyous Christian Festival of the Nativity, recalling to mind and giving God thanks for the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour!
This year, Christmas is celebrated against the backdrop of several national and personal challenges; yet we have a lot for which to thank God, for indeed we are yet alive. True, in many of our households, family members are encountering health difficulties, others were thrown into mourning, and various social ills still surround us, including the large number of suicides among males and the cruel and inexcusable instances of rape inflicted upon our women and children.
To make matters worse, there are the inescapable negative effects of the continuing economic depression with resulting joblessness and reduced disposable income. Happily, despite the challenges, individually and collectively, successes were gained. Above all, God remains faithful in grace and providence, and our joys include spiritual renewal and transformation.
The biblical accounts of the Nativity, according to Matthew and Luke, are the central focus at this Christmas time, as the special unfolding of God’s salvation plan brings a unique freshness and sweetness to believers and seekers. Permit us to share a brief thought on the baby Jesus being wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Swaddling was an ancient process commonly used by the community at the time of Jesus’ birth. It involved a practice of systematically wrapping infants in blankets or similar cloths so that movement of their limbs was tightly restricted. After an infant was born, the umbilical cord was cut and tied, and then the baby was washed, rubbed with salt and oil, and wrapped with strips of cloth.
These strips kept the newborn child warm and also ensured that the child’s limbs would grow straight without physical deformity. A stay band may even be attached to the forehead and the shoulders to secure the head. Babies would be swaddled like this until about 8 or 9 months. Over the years, this practice was generally abandoned by modern communities, and current readers of Luke’s Gospel are usually unaware of the significance of Jesus being wrapped in swaddling bands. So then, what lessons can we learn from the practice used in relation to Jesus?
1. Parental Responsibility: As the mother of baby Jesus, Mary took responsibility for his parenting and swaddled him. While becoming a parent is evident at the birth of a child, parental responsibility is ongoing and sacrificial with commitment to the care, nourishment, nurturing and discipline of the child. Sadly, in our modern society parenting is often neglected by mothers and fathers, with the responsibility left to the church, schools and social agencies. The example of Mary should provide a motivation to us and this Christmas is a good juncture for us to get back on track, with mothers and fathers accepting our parental responsibility.
2. Child’s Discipline: The swaddling process included the inhibiting of the child’s limbs. We may regard this discipline to have been cruel; however it was done for the vital reason of enabling the straight growth of the limbs. Discipline is a critical element in a child’s upbringing in order to keep him/her on the straight and narrow path. Discipline includes the intake of healthy foods at prescribed times; participation in worship, work and godly recreational activities; adhering to rest and quiet times; instilling of manners and relational courtesies; and reading and instructional periods. Our children must undergo such wholesome disciplines.
3. Warm Provision: While in his mother’s womb, the unborn baby was provided with all of the required natural warmth. After Jesus’ birth, he was subjected to the varied external conditions in the atmosphere; however warmth was still needed. Swaddling of Jesus kept him warmed, enabled comfort and healthy existence. Similarly, each of our children require warmth for the sustenance of their comfort and wellbeing; and this is provided by protection from harm and danger; embrace of love, respect and appreciation; and a sustained environment of peace, harmony and togetherness. This Christmas let’s intensify this provision.
About Jesus, Shirley E. Murray wrote, “Star Child, earth Child, go between of God, love Child, Christ Child, heaven’s lighting rod. Hope for peace Child, God’s stupendous sign, down to earth Child, star of stars that shine. This year, this year let the day arrive when Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive.”
A Joyous Christmas and may God richly bless you and your family!
Grace, peace and love always,
Rev. Philbert S. Delaney – Superintendent Minister
Rev. Janice Soyer-Delaney – Deacon
Methodist Church, Saint Lucia Circuit