Swaddling Clothes

From a homily on Christmas 2017

There are five actions that help comfort a crying newborn: swing, shush, suck, side, and swaddle. The 5 S's are meant to replicate the womb. For example, swinging the baby gently mimics the swaying in the amniotic fluid, which also made a shushing sound like waves. Wrapping a baby in swaddling clothes so that she cannot flay her arms makes the baby feel contained and embraced, as she was prenatally.

“She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger” (Lk 2:7). A fellow named Harvey Karp takes credit for the 5 S Method, but, as we can see, at least one of the S’s has been in practice from time immemorial. The Book of Wisdom also makes reference to swaddling (cf. Wis 7:3-5).

Jesus was swaddled by Mary. It comforted him. It stopped him from crying. Yes, the swaddling bands at Bethlehem foreshadowed the swaddling bands at Calvary. The cross is not far from the crib: a reminder of what Jesus came to do. But there is something else important about the swaddling bands. When the angels tell the shepherds about the momentous occasion, and hasten them to visit the Son of God, they specifically say, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12).

It is not only Mary and Joseph who were called to comfort Jesus, “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). We can swaddle Jesus by wrapping him in our love, and we love him when we worship him, pray to him, and live like him. Jesus desires us to comfort him. May we be good parents this Christmas and swaddle Jesus.

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