And this shall be a sign to you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
Is it not strange, you will ask, that when the shepherds were given a sign by which they should know their new-born Saviour, they should be told, not of something distinguishing Him from all children beside, but of something common to all the infants that were born that night in all Judea? "Ye shall find wrapped in swaddling clothes." Why not say, according to the instincts of heathen mythology, Ye shall know Him by the bees that gather to suck the honey of His lips, or the strangled serpents that lie about His cradle? Why not say, according to the suggestions of Christian legend and art, Ye shall know Him by the aspect of supernatural majesty, which it shall be the dream and the disappointment of all the world's artists to attempt to portray? Or, Ye shall know Him by the halo of celestial light beaming from His brow, as in the "Holy Night" of Correggio, and filling the rude stall with an unearthly brightness? Or, Ye shall know Him by some accessories worthy of so royal a birth, by gifts of gold and myrrh and frankincense that strew the humble shed? The very question brings its answer: You are to know Him from all these natural dreams of a fond imagination, from the hopeful prognostications of Hebrew mothers, or the impatient fancies of fanatics, or the artful fictions of impostors taking advantage of the general expectation with which the very atmosphere of Palestine was saturated, to set forth some feigned Messiah — you are to know Him from all these by the fact that He is just the opposite of all such imaginings — that He is to all appearance just a helpless human infant, the most helpless thing in the whole creation, bound and bandaged in swaddling clothes. And if you would know how to distinguish Him from other such, it is not by His grandeur but by His poverty. There is no room in the inn for such as He; and they have laid Him in the manger, among the cattle The sign given to the shepherds is a sign also to us — that we find the Holy Child wrapped in swaddling clothes. Illustrious men have sometimes had an honest pride in inscribing upon their escutchon, beneath a noble crest, the symbol of the humble mechanic rank in which they had their origin. So the Church of Christ, beneath the diadem of supreme royalty, quarters upon its shield, beside the cross and the thongs, the manger and the swaddling bands, and invites the world to read the blazon. That family group which the painters of every later age have been essaying to depict — the carpenter with his simple, uninquisitive faith obedient to heavenly visions, the pure Virgin with her unskilled maiden tenderness pondering strange memories in her heart, both leaning over the Wonderful, but understanding not the saying which He speaks to them — these speak over again to us the language of that prophet who first called his child "Immanuel," "Behold we and the Child whom the Lord hath given us are for signs and for wonders from the Lord of hosts."
(Leonard W. Bacon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.