Monday, December 24, 2018

A Savior, Swaddled and Victorious

I have an image I’ve wanted to use all Advent. It’s a pile of cloths, waiting to be used for some mundane purpose. But as we look at the image of Jesus Christ as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, the purpose of such pieces of fabric seems far from ordinary.

I gathered more inspiration from an article on Christianity Today’s website entitled My Swaddled Savior. In it, pastor Jeff Peabody, wrestling with his own mental illness and the idea of being bound with the captive fetters of his mind’s disorder, says,

“The simple image of Jesus, God’s gift to us, being wrapped up in cloths comforts me with the powerful truth: He understands the bindings on my mind and soul as only someone who has a shared experience can. The concept of Immanuel, God with us, takes on a new and profound clarity.”

At first, one wonders what it must have been like for the world of God-incarnate to be reduced and tightened so severely. Were the swaddling clothes constraining or consoling? After all, Jesus needed no use of hands and limbs to pull humanity towards Himself. What was mere strips of cloth to the maker of the universe?

Indeed, it was an act of humility. A boundedness that He entered according to the will of the Father. As we let this sink in, no longer do we see the sweet cooing baby in the folds of a clean blanket. We see God Almighty “contained in unnaturally small dimensions,” experiencing unfathomable limitations for our behalf.

Jesus entered the world in wrappings, spiritual and humble. At the end, we see them again. He was bound during His trials. Nails hammered into his wrists and ankles took the place of chains. Yet we know it was not wood and iron that held Him there. Jesus was immobilized again for our behalf, held captive to His sacrifice by His great love. The final wrappings came in the form of burial shroud, wrapped lovingly with spices and ointments.

Peabody writes about Christ's final confrontation with His wrappings:

“This time, the story ends with the image of the cloths being left behind in the tomb, set aside by the risen Christ. The gift is now fully ours, the wrappings discarded. He broke the power of the bindings that had held him in a death grip and emerged into complete and total freedom. . .”

He offers us freedom from our own tight bound swaddlings too. These swaddlings come in all shapes and sizes—tightnesses and pressures, locked lives and chained souls—but only He can pull the release.

Tomorrow we celebrate Christmas. We read the Nativity story. We wonder at the beauty of God’s plan. Like Mary, we cherish all these things in our hearts. But don't let it end there. Arise from the end-of-celebration stupor and embrace the King. He came to open hearts and minds; to set the bound free. And He promises to come again. Can we prepare Him room?

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