When I was a teenager, I used to enjoy going out in the streets to play Christmas carols on my cornet (which is like a trumpet) with fellow members of a Salvation Army band. Today, such instrumental carolers are often found in the warmth of a mall, but years ago, such malls didn’t exist, so the opportunity to share carols with others was to play them outdoors.
On a cold day, it was a problem. Brass instruments involve blowing into one end using a mouthpiece, and after passing through the instrument, the sound comes out the other end, called the bell. While the moist air that I blew in would be warm, if the outside air were cold, the water vapour would freeze, preventing sound coming out of the bell.
Players would try various ways to keep their instruments warm, such as wrapping a blanket around their instrument, but it was difficult to hold the blanket in place.
My ingenious mother cut a thick piece of material so that it covered my cornet with just the mouthpiece and bell exposed, with a zipper and an opening so that I could finger the valves.
My cornet’s blanket was an example of a mother’s love being demonstrated in a very practical way, and it reminded me of the practical kindness of Mary thousands of years ago.
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7 KJV)
As a youngster, every time I read these verses, I visualized warmth and comfort coming from a warm blanket. But now, research tells me that “swaddling clothes” really means “swathing bands” or strips of cloth. The significance of these is heightened by the fact that for the shepherds, they were the sign of the Messiah: “Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12b KJV)
Apparently, these shepherds were raising the lambs for the temple sacrifices, so when they were born, they were wrapped in swathing bands to protect them from injury, because they had to be without spot or blemish. Since Jesus was born where animals were kept, these strips of cloth would have been readily available for Mary to use.
Undoubtedly, she would not have known the spiritual significance of the fact that she was wrapping the Saviour of the world, the Lamb of God, in swaddling clothes.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'” (John 1:29 NIV)
Like Mary, we may not fully understand the significance of all that we do. I invite us all to strive to follow God’s leading so that we may play a small part in His great plan.
Prayer: Father, thank You for the love that Mary showed to Jesus and the opportunity that we have to share that same love with others. Give us the strength to remain faithful. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada