Shepherds and Swaddling Clothes

Shepherds and Swaddling Clothes by Linda Littlefield

On the night of our Savior’s (Baby Jesus) birth, there were shepherds watching their flock. And Angels appeared to them announcing that a child was born. They revealed, “this shall be a sign to you. You will see a baby lying in a manger wrapped in “swaddling clothes”.

These shepherds were extraordinary shepherds. They were called “Levitical Shepherds”. They had been chosen and trained to attend the flock of sheep that were to be used as sacrificial lambs in the Temple. Sacrificial lambs had to be “spotless and without blemish.” They required special treatment and observation. According to the laws of the time, the sheep that were used for the offerings had to be a one-year-old male sheep that had been outside for 365 days (one year). When they were ready, they were taken to Jerusalem to be sacrificed on the Sabbath in the Temple.

When the mother ewe was preparing to give birth, she was taken to a special birthplace, or to the only cave designated, to give birth to the sacrificial Iambs. This cave was kept sterile and clean for the arrival of newborn sacrificial Iambs. The newborn lamb was immediately wrapped in clean swaddling clothes to protect them and keep them from blemish and danger. Swaddling clothes described in the Bible consisted of a cloth tied together by bandage-like strips. When the declaration was made to these Levitical Shepherds that watched their sheep in a special field full of sacrificial lambs, they apparently knew exactly where to go to discover that Baby. There were apparently many places that held mangers, but they comprehended immediately where to go to find the babe… to their cave, where
their sacrificial lambs were born and wrapped in “swaddling clothes.
Throughout our years we have heard, seen or listened to the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus. Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem. They traveled to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus had declared that each person should travel to their town of origin to register in a census. Bethlehem was Joseph’s family village. This was proclaimed to ensure that all citizens were correctly paying their taxes.

We know that when they arrived, the small town’s population had expanded significantly because of all those who had come to register. They could find no place to stay and Mary went into labor. They found a person who gave permission for them to stay where animals were sometimes housed. We understand that this was actually a cave and not a little barn type dwelling. As the Baby Jesus was born, it is reported that He was wrapped in “swaddling clothes” and laid in a manger (or feeding trough for the animals).

And these extraordinary Shepherds came immediately to the place where their sacrificial lambs were born to worship our Sacrificial Lamb.

As we enjoy beautiful lights and sounds and gifts this special time of the year. Let us not forget the miraculous beginnings of a Babe who was called Jesus or Immanuel (God with us). He became our Sacrificial Lamb and is now our Shepherd.

PUBLISHED: December 18, 2018

Photograph: Patrick Schneider

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