I learned something new today from Ronnie White. The story of Christ's birth as reflected in Luke holds deeper meaning than I realized. I'm sure you've heard the reference from the King James version in Luke 2, "And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." New versions have just called in cloth.
But the question arises, why would a baby in cloth be a "sign" to the shepherds that this was the Christ-child? The angel didn't mention the manger first, he mentioned the swaddling clothes. What is it about swaddling clothes that would be a sign?
The term swaddling clothes is still used today by nurses who wrap the baby after birth. Unfortunately, that term is a 2000 year old misnomer. The origin comes as a result of the harsh countryside in the Middle East. As people took off on trips that often lasted days into months, it was not uncommon for sickness or accident to take place. There we deaths in these journeys.
They Middle Eastern culture developed a way to deal with in-journey deaths. Each person would take a long, thin, gauze-like cloth and wrap it around their waist many times. This would be one of the bottom layers of clothing. This cloth would be reserved for death. If someone died during the journey, their friends or family would remove the "swaddling cloth" and wrap them from head to toe so they could compete the journey.
The baby Jesus was wrapped in Joseph's death cloth. The sign for the shepherds wasn't that they'd find a baby wrapped in a blanket in a manger. The sign was that they'd find a baby prepared for death. Jesus came to earth to die for our sins. That was his purpose. This was shown even from the instance of his birth.
What a God.
By the way... this makes the wise man's gift of myrrh even more appropriate. Myrrh was the spice used for death. It was basically deodorant for the dead. Even though the wise men didn't actually show up until he was toddler, the theme continues.