A Different Look At The Nativity

By | December 15, 2011

Have you ever wondered about the swaddling clothes that Mary used to wrap baby Jesus? I wonder where she got them–did her mom give them to her? Were they used by other babies and then passed down to Mary? Did she choose the fabric and make them herself in typical nesting fashion?

A new baby always requires a multitude of blankets. Babies need to be kept warm. They need to feel snug and secure. They need the comfort of something soft and the reminder that they are held–supported by someone. We swaddle them so that even when we’re not holding them they feel as if they are held.

And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: 11for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this is the sign unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.
 A baby in a blanket. Tidings of great joy literally found with the birth of this infant. The irony is beautiful and consistent throughout the Bible. The king that comes to save the world does not lead a war or conquer kingdoms. He doesn’t “draw” from his cabinet of decorated leaders and warriors for conference. No, this king is swaddled as a baby and still in full glory. The weak shall shame the strong.
This Christmas there are some really special babies who, like baby Jesus, bring us hope and joy. Unlike Jesus, they are not able to save us from our sins, pay our debts, and reward us with life we do not deserve. But they point to Him all the same.

One of the babies that came this Christmas season is named Avery. She was born six weeks early and had serious heart complications. I cannot even fathom the hell my friends have been in as they have had to endure the complete inability to “fix” her. Even the doctors didn’t know if it could be done.

She was out of everyone’s hands…except God’s. The prayer, the agony, the waiting for answers that everyone who know’s Avery’s family has experienced–is torturous.

And yet…

Avery’s birth reminds us of the Nativity in a way that is so poignant that sometimes I don’t know how I could have missed it all these years. Of course the Nativity can be represented in the ceramic figures displayed on the mantel. Yes, it’s depicted on painted ornaments and sung in carols; but when do we FEEL the full force of this joyous occasion?

I think we truly feel it in that moment of birth. That moment when we hold our newly swaddled infant in our arms and cannot comprehend the love and joy this tiny person elicits from us. Oh, to be Mary. How did she swaddle her infant–how did she rock him and what lullabies did she use?

Who needs the swaddling? Who needs the sense of security–the feeling of being held? Who needs the lullabies to soothe and comfort a “fuss,” a hurt, a loss, a diagnosis, a death, a fear?

We do. We need the comfort and joy of Christ—and I’ll tell you what, we especially need it when something goes wrong. When something so wonderful as birth goes awry with complications, we need to be swaddled too. 

There were good tidings of great joy when Avery came into the world. There were also tears of great sadness and fear that she would not be here long. But then there were more good tidings–even better tidings announced when her heart started performing and with what would have only taken a miracle, was performed with a miracle. In just the few weeks she’s been here, Avery has pointed people towards Christ. 
She’s shown us that we are all vulnerable, weak babes who need a Father. We need–we want to be held and swaddled, protected from this impossible trajectory of a life without him.

This year I have a living example of the Nativity. She’s in the ICU and will be there for a while. She is surrounded by family and friends who share the good news both of Avery’s birth and Christ’s life. 

I read a brilliant Nativity devotional a few weeks ago and this post is largely inspired by what I read in it. One of the things the author, Jill Carattini said about Christmas is that we get “to remember our fragility, our dependency, and the great reversal of the kingdom of God: For God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”

7 thoughts on “A Different Look At The Nativity

  1. hilljean

    Wow- *tears*. Seriously. I am living in a world full of manifest revelation that remains unseen by a solid majority of people- even among the Church. Grace is the truth, the reality that WE NEED JESUS and we can’t get by without him- and realizing He’s got gifts stored up for us, just waiting for us to receive them. Call me “foolish”. Thank you.

  2. hilljean

    A beautiful post! I’ll say a prayer for little Avery. You are so right–when I had my children, I was more acutely aware of the love of Christ than most of my life. There’s something about holding a little baby that truly shows a person what it’s like to be held by Him.

  3. hilljean

    Beautiful writing – I especially like the phrase – we swaddle them so even if we’re not holding them they feel as if we are. And Avery’s birth is a reminder of how much we are held in God’s hands and are so dependent on Him.

  4. hilljean

    This needs to go to the “Letters to Avery” Probably the most powerful thing I have read in a while. My favorite post yet Hillary. You are an amazing writer.

  5. hilljean

    A very new take on the beautiful miracle of Jesus’ birth. Praying for Avery.


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