Meditating on the Word of God should lead us to new places: new revelation in God, ourselves and others. Each word of scripture has the ability to awaken awe within us and draw us further into the mystery of God. It is easy to become so familiar with God’s Word, that our openness to new insights is depleted.


One such narrative is the story of the birth of Jesus. Found in two of the four gospels, the Shepherds are mentioned only in Luke. For many years, I have read this story. I have sat my children and grandchildren on my knee and joined with them in exploring this miraculous event. Until recently, I have never considered the significance of why Luke mentions that Jesus is wrapped in ‘swaddling cloths’.


She wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger. (Luke 2:7)


This seems a very ordinary thing to say yet we hear that the angels gave this description as a sign to the shepherds as well (Luke 2:12). Luke’s inclusion of these two words, ‘swaddling cloth’ is deliberate, and so invites some exploration.


The Lamb and The Light

There are many ideas from the Middle Eastern tradition concerning the significance of the swaddling cloth in the life of Jesus, but they do not provide answers as to why Luke included this description in his narrative. The following perspective offers an invitation to new insights contained in these two simple words.


Finding the firstborn son wrapped in swaddling cloth and lying in a manger would have significance for the Shepherds. It was customary for the shepherds to choose the firstborn lamb of the flock as a sacrificial offering for their sins at the Temple. In order for it to be without blemish, they would wrap it in swaddling cloths and usually lay it in a manger in order to protect it from being trampled.


This symbolises that Jesus is the Lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:19)


Swaddling was a cheap cloth which was often soaked in oil and used to wrap around the top portion of a reed. When lit it would light the way as a torch. The material was also twisted to be used for wicks in oil lamps.


Jesus came to be the light of the world. (John 9:5)


Safe, Secure and Swaddled

Even in our present times, new born infants are generally swaddled. Having come from a warm and confined womb, this gives babies both warmth and a sense of security. Interestingly, Ezekiel describes wayward Israel as “unswaddled”(Ezekiel 16:4) – a metaphor for abandonment.


Today many in our world experience a deep sense of abandonment. As we celebrate Christ’s birth this Christmas, we would do well to reach out to the unswaddled of our global community, particularly those in war torn countries; those living in daily poverty without food, water or medical supplies. Looking closer to my own community, we have: local homeless people; those caught in addiction; those struggling with day to day living, particularly during this time of Covid. Surely these are today’s unswaddled and abandoned ones?


The Christ Child is the light of the world. How can we shine His light this Christmas season? Perhaps we could spend less on the latest decorations, elaborate meals and unnecessary gifts and use the money saved on these, to swaddle those whose very existence depends on our love and support.


Take a moment to reflect and ask if there is a message that the swaddling cloth has for you at this moment in time, whatever your circumstances. We can easily dismiss this suggestion and think “Well I’m a bit big for a swaddling cloth encounter!!”


We are never too old to be swaddled in the security of our Lord.


It’s a simple exercise to enter into the small cave of Bethlehem and with the infant Jesus, be swaddled and held secure in the immense love of God.


Many people use a shawl during prayer. Traditionally, this piece of cloth was blessed and gave comfort to the sick and dying. As women, there’s a high possibility that tucked away in a drawer or cupboard, we have a scarf or a wrap used to keep ourselves warm, or simply as a fashion garment. Choose one that you particularly like, it doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. This can be your ‘swaddling cloth’. What was once a wardrobe accessory can now be transformed into a living gift, one you can slip into your handbag and take with you wherever you go.


Embrace of the Beloved

In one of his poems, St John of the Cross is perplexed when told by the Lord that ‘all that happens is Grace’. The Lord continues “Could not lovers say that every moment in their Beloved’s arms was grace? Existence is my arms…“


As Mary would have lovingly lifted the swaddled Jesus and held Him in her arms, imagine your swaddling cloth as the Presence of Jesus, His loving arms cradling you. Existence is living the ‘now’ – this moment in time. When you go to prayer swaddle yourself. You need wisdom? Enclosed in His arms, ask Him. When you have difficult decisions to make at home or at work, reach into your bag and place your swaddling cloth around your shoulders. Feel His Presence. Speak to Him within your heart.


You can be anywhere; on public transport; travelling in a car; in the kitchen or board-room. No one need know. To the outside world, you have simply put a scarf around your shoulders. You know differently however and your heart responds. It sings and rejoices as you are being held, cradled and supported in the loving arms of God.


There are moments when we can feel abandoned by God, alone, confused, scared. We have no sense of His arms or His Presence. Particularly at these times, take out your swaddling cloth. You have something tangible to touch, to remind you of God’s Presence. This cloth is not to show off to your friends but to know your best friend is holding you.


Wrapped with love

Teach this to your children. This Christmas, take them shopping and allow them to choose their own ‘swaddling cloth’. I remember a time when my children were small and they would wake during the night with bad dreams. They’d come, kneel by my bed and I’d place my hand on their head, pray a simple prayer and they’d sleep soundly for the remainder of the night. Their own ‘swaddling cloth’ would work just as well. They could cuddle into it as they drifted off to sleep knowing that Jesus was protecting and holding them in His arms. What a beautiful and enduring Gift to give to our children.


As you are swaddled in the loving arms of God, rejoice and proclaim that the news which the whole world is waiting for, has already been given: “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And all at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words: Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth, peace for those He favours.” (Luke 2: 11-14)


(Original article was published on and has been modified for




Ann Brereton lives in Tasmania, Australia with her husband David of 40 years. Ann’s ministry involves over 40 years in leadership positions including being the first woman National Chairperson of the Australian National Service Committee. She also served as a member of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS) situated at the Vatican. She is a mother to 4 sons and grandmother to 6 granddaughters, has lived as a Missionary in Uganda and traveled extensively as a Conference Speaker. 



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