If you were in Bible Class on Sunday, you heard me say how I don’t like at all like the translation “swaddling cloths.” Perhaps it’s because I’m so partial to the King James translation of Luke chapter 2, but “swaddling clothes” sounds serene and tender and beautiful, and “swaddling cloths” sounds inartful and a little gross and just sort of wrong. I mean this, of course, on an aesthetic level. We should translate it “swaddling clothes” because that sounds better. But on a technical level, “swaddling cloths” is a bit more accurate because these aren’t prepared or sowed garments. Jesus isn’t wrapped in a onesie. But swaddling clothes are strips of cloth that you wrap around a child to keep him warm. You’d anoint the infant in oil and then bind him in those cloths to keep him warm.
And the reason Luke tells us about this is, of course, the tender humility of it all. Jesus Christ is the Son of David born in David’s royal city. He’s the heir to His father’s throne, and even more so, Jesus is the Son of God born to rule from that throne forever, born to pour out salvation upon the world. But when He arrives in this world, He’s not clothed in royal colors and warmed with royal garments. He’s wrapped in leftover pieces of cloth. He’s wrapped in rags. Very fitting for the Son of God born to take upon Himself the filthy rags of our sins.
And that’s exactly what Jesus has done for us. In His passion, the Son of God who clothed Himself in humility was humiliated, betrayed, spit upon, beaten, flogged, crucified and killed. And there, in His stripes, we are healed. With the crimson attire of His blood soaked, pierced flesh, Jesus clothed Himself in the rags of our sins. There He claimed them as His own garments, stripping us of everything that made us worthy of condemnation. Then, when He rose from the grave clothed in the glory and love of His Father, Jesus gave us the right to wear the royal robe He didn’t receive at His birth, the royal robe that He had been waiting to give us from the foundation of the world. For Jesus Christ, and for us, the swaddling clothes of beggars are no more. The rags of poverty are no longer our garments. Now we are clothed in royal garments. Now we are clothed in the righteousness of God.