The Gift of Proper Clothing

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Luke 2:1–21 (ESV)
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Opening Prayer

Setting the Stage

This is an introduction to the One who came to save a people for Himself.
—> To redeem God’s people.
This is the fulfillment of the promised Seed of Genesis 3 that would crush the head of the serpent.
This is the One who would come from the tribe of Judah, who’s scepter would never fall.
This is the promised Seed of Abraham, the King that would come through Sarah.
The King, as revealed later, who would come, specifically, through the lineage of David.
This is the fulfillment of the One like a Son of Man, but One who receives glory as only God can receive…
Who’s kingdom will never end.
This is, as Matthew puts it, Emmanuel, “God with us”.
Or as John tells us in his gospel...
John 1:1 (ESV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:14 (ESV)
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The eternal Word, the eternal Son of God took upon flesh...
A Baby in a manger, succumbing to all the realities of a fallen world, yet without sin.
To most of you, if not all of you, this is a familiar passage.
A passage that your family reads on Christmas eve or Christmas morning.
But, this morning, I want to zero in on a sign given in this passage.
A sign that has everything to do with the topic of clothing.

Why Did God Include Clothing As a Sign?

I think that if the angel would have just said go to the city of David and look for the Savior...
The Shepherds would have never found Jesus.
They would have looked for Him in the most expensive of places.
The most extravagant of Lodgings.
If they would have found Him, they would have turned away with a scoff at the meager birth place of a manger...
And, royal swaddling cloths replaced by normal, run of the mill, swaddling cloths.
With the announcement including the meager lodging and the run of the mill clothing...
The Shepherds would find Jesus, and would have assurance of their finding.
You see we think proper clothing, has everything to do with how they look...
Or rather how they make us look.
Or how much they cost.
Like in NT times, the color purple was worn by royalty because of the cost to dye them purple.
Our thoughts of proper clothing fall far short of God’s standard for proper clothing.
It was customary for Mom’s to put swaddling cloths on newborns.
It was a piece of cloth, turned like a diamond...
With the baby lying on the cloth.
Wrapped by corners being brought in...
The baby would be warm and tight and secure.
Much like we still do today when babies are born.
You may never have thought this, but in God’s eyes clothing matters.
And, to be properly clothed is critical in the eyes of the Lord.
But, the kind of clothing we ultimately need goes beyond warmth.
It goes beyond cost, looks, all of the temporal reasons we choose clothing.
Our ultimate need for clothing is we need a clothes that will allow us to stand before a holy God...
A clothing that will make us blameless in His sight.
The Bible teaches us that...

God Is Concerned with Your Clothing

Genesis 3:1–7 (ESV)
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
God calls to Adam and Eve and lays out the curses that came upon creation in the Fall of Man.
He removes Adam and Even from the Garden of Eden.
They lose their righteous standing before God.
An angel and a flaming sword now stand between them and the friendly presence of God.
Spiritual death has immediately occured and physical death is inevitable from then on, for all of mankind.
But, God did not miss the garments that Adam and Eve tried to clothe themselves with.
He took note of their improper clothing.
They tried to hide their shame and unrighteousness in their own way...
Based on their own efforts.
But, God let them know it was not sufficient.
This was the moment that we lost proper clothing that allowed us to be righteous in the presence of God.
Their clothing was not appropriate, nor effective.
And, so we’re told in...
Genesis 3:21 (ESV)
21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
God gave them clothes that He would provide.
For them to be properly clothed there needed to be a substitutionary death.
So, God, along with the promise of a Seed that would redeem a people for God...
Also, teaches them that a Substitutionary Death is needed on their behalf.
And, we see this teaching expanded in the Covenant with Abraham...
And, even more so within the Mosiac Covenant.
Clothing that allows one to stand in the presence of God must be provided by God.
We see this in greater clarity in the book of Zechariah.
Where God gives Zechariah a vision of a work of God that was to come...
Zechariah 3:1–4 (ESV)
1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”
What we see here in Zechariah is a vision that foreshadows the work of the Messiah...
The Messiah that was God incarnate.
The eternal Son of God become babe.
And, this vision shows us that...

Proper Clothing Must Be Provided By God

You think about this scene in Zechariah 3.
Joshua was the High Priest.
He was the best of the best of the Nation.
If his garments were filthy, everyone else was in great and horrible trouble.
If Joshua was standing in the presence of God and was seen as unclean, unholy, unrighteous before God...
The nation, and all others were undone.
I think Jesus was speaking to this passage when He said...
Matthew 5:20 (ESV)
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
It would have had the same gripping effect on the crowds listening to Jesus...
As it would have had the readers of Zechariah’s vision.
If the most externally pious, moral people of the land stand before God as unrighteous, filthy sinners...
Then we are all doomed.
Our only hope is seen in v.3 of Zechariah...
3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”
The only clothes that are proper for someone to stand before God...
Must come from God.
Isaiah prophesied of such clothing from the Lord...
Isaiah 61:10 (ESV)
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
This clothing that God provides...
Is only obtained in and through, the Savior Jesus Christ.
The eternal Son of God was born a babe...
Took upon flesh.
Was clothed in swaddling cloths.
So, that we could be clothed in the righteousness of God.
The Apostle Paul reminds us of our righteous clothing that we have in Jesus when he says...
Ephesians 4:24 (ESV)
24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
If we are in Christ, we are wearing God’s appointed clothing.
In Christ, we are accepted into the friendly presence of God.
The curse of sin has been removed.
The flaming sword has been quenched.
And, we can once again enter the presence of God...
Because we are wearing the clothing that God provides us through His Son.
The righteousness of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
We have been clothed in a clothing from God...
The righteousness of Jesus Christ.
What a glorious truth to celebrate!

Let’s think about this...

We see God’s admirable work in every birth...
But God to be a child, God in a woman’s womb, that is the miracle of miracles.
The great God to be a little babe.
The Ancient of days to become an infant.
The King of eternity to now bear an age.
God immeasurably great, whom heaven and earth cannot contain, to be a babe measured in inches.
The founder of the heavens rocked in a cradle.
The swayer of the world swathed in infant clothing.
It is a most incredible thing.
As one theologian puts it...
The earth wondered, at Christ’s Nativity, to see a new star in heaven.
But heaven might rather wonder to see One who’s glory is brighter than the Sun on earth.
All of this for the glory of the name of God...
And, to swaddle His people in Proper Clothing.
This Christmas, our greatest concern should not be what’s in the box under the tree...
But, are you wearing the divine clothing offered to us in Jesus Christ.
It is the only clothing that is proper for one to wear.
To be clothed with the righteousness of Christ.
It is the only clothing that makes one acceptable to God.

Closing Prayer

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