December 20, 2005

A Sign

Luke 2:1-14

She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger. Luke 2:7


Why does the gospel writer Luke make a point of mentioning cloths and a manger? Note that later the angel says to the shepherds, "This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." What do the cloths and manger signify? When Winston Churchill heard someone described as modest, he replied, "Yes, but he has much to be modest about." But that's not the case with Mary's child. He is called Savior, Lord, and Messiah. Each title signifies great dignity, worthy of royal purple and a gold crib. The poverty of Jesus' surroundings shows his solidarity with humanity. Despite all our pretensions, the truth about us is that we are poor. Like grass, we flourish briefly and then die. To be our representative, Jesus had to become like us in our poverty. (See Hebrews 2:17-18.) Luke also describes the birth scene this way in parallel with Jesus' burial scene. Here we are told that Mary "wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger." In Luke 23:53 we read that a man named Joseph took Jesus' body down from the cross, "wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock." Later some Christian artists noticed this connection and portrayed the birthplace of Jesus like a sepulchre. In his coming, Jesus shared not only our poverty but also our death. He was born to die for us.

Lord Jesus, you became like us in every way so that you might become a merciful and faithful high priest and cover our sins. We thank you. In your name, Amen.

About the author — Jack Roeda

Rev. Jack Roeda is the senior pastor at Church of the Servant Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and an adjunct professor of preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary. He is married to Carol Sue Kok, and they have three children and two grandchildren. Pastor Roeda has served two previous churches: Exeter (Ont.) Christian Reformed Church and Calvary Christian Reformed Church, Holland, Michigan.

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