One of my favourite parts of the Christmas story is the shepherds’ reaction to seeing the angels. I mean, think about it – these guys were sitting or standing around in the field, maybe the sheep were sleeping, not doing much, and then, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2:9). Now, I’ve never tended to sheep or seen an angel appear to me, nor have I witnessed how sheep react to an angel or how shepherds might react to their sheep being spooked.
But here’s what Luke said about it (Luke 2:15-18): When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
They hurried off. Then, when they saw the baby Jesus, “wrapped in strips of cloth”, just like the angel said they would (Luke 2:12, GWT), they went and told any and everyone. And everyone who heard the shepherds were amazed.
The angels told them to look for a baby ‘wrapped in strips of cloth’ as proof of what they were told. The broader story of Christmas gives us hope, yes. But that God chose to announce the birth of Jesus to the world through a bunch of shepherds minding their own business in the fields at night, that gives me hope that no matter my circumstance. Jesus came as a baby, subjecting himself to every possible thing that could go wrong – he could have died at birth, because infant mortality was so high on those days.
But the little clue, ‘wrapped in strips of cloth’, is amazing to me. That was the evidence the angels gave to prove the truth of their message. It was a clue of who to look for.
Israel was looking for a Saviour, and he was revealed to humble shepherds, ‘wrapped in strips of cloth’. This gives me hope. In light of everything that has gone wrong in 2020, I have hope because of a baby born 2000 years ago, and that God used little strips of cloth to show introduce himself to the world.
Nothing about Jesus’ birth was powerful, except that it was powerful in its humility, and counter-intuitive to what everyone expected and hoped for. God is calling us to look for the little things as evidence of his promise to us. Jesus came 2000 years ago, announced by an angel and wrapped in strips of cloth. He’s still God, and he’s calling us to hope, and bring hope, no matter how small, to the world.