Henrietta Haas was born in Vienna in 1929. When the Nazi threat drove her family to America in 1939, Henrietta studied retailing in college and later earned a master’s degree in library science. She married her sweetheart, Monroe Milstein, who launched a clothing business after World War II. Henrietta worked as a librarian in a Long Island elementary school, and she used her $75,000 in savings to help her husband purchase a former factory outlet in Burlington, New Jersey, for his clothing store.
Business boomed and Burlington Coat Factory soon opened a second location. The Milstein’s son, Lazer, agreed to run the second store on the condition it be closed on Saturday, his Sabbath. Consequently, the store reopened every Sunday morning, where hundreds of people came to shop on their day off. When the Milstein family sold Burlington Coat Factory in 2006, it was purchased for more than two billion dollars—the $75,000 investment paid great dividends!
As it happens, the Christmas season marks the beginning of winter when people are shopping for outerwear or pulling sweaters out of their closet. Some of us have sweaters, coats, dresses, or ties we wear only at Christmas. Some of them are corny, some are classy; but all of them spur on the holiday spirit.
In a way, the tradition of our Christmas clothing goes back to the original story of the birth of a first-century Jewish boy who was identified by His clothing. “And this will be the sign to you,” the angels told the shepherds in Luke 2:12. “You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger” (NKJV).
What are swaddling clothes or “cloths”? Our English word swaddle is related to the word swathe, which means “to bandage, to wrap up, or to bind.” Swaddling is an age-old practice of wrapping infants in blankets so mobility of the limbs is tightly restricted. The practice dates back to antiquity, when babies were wrapped in strips of cloth that kept them from moving. It also helped keep them warm.
There’s a modern swaddling movement, and advocates claim the practice soothes and settles irritable infants. But in the case of Jesus, it seems Mary was simply abiding by the customs of her day. Perhaps the bands of clothing around Jesus protected His tender newborn skin from the sharp points of the straw or hay on which He may have been laid. Yet how odd that the liberator of the human race would be bound and swaddled at His birth.
Thirty-three years later, after He was pierced and crucified, He was again wrapped in the swaddled cloth of a spice-laden shroud. In both birth and death, our Lord was wrapped up in enveloping yards of linen as the story of His mission went from swaddled clothes to grave clothes, and from the womb of a virgin to the tomb of a rich man, and from life to life everlasting.
What’s Wrapped up With Christ?
When we unwrap the Good News of Christ, we find FORGIVENESS. Over the years I’ve shared the Gospel with many people, and some have refused to believe there’s a God or that God loves them, or that Christ died for them or rose again. But there is one aspect of the gospel message that virtually everyone believes: That we are sinners. We all have regrets. We’ve all made mistakes and acted unwisely. According to the Bible, these are the things that separate us from the perfection and glory of God. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
Because of this, we also have HOPE. And our hope is ultimate and everlasting. Hebrews 6:19 says, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.”
With hope comes PEACE. During the Christmas season, Scripture from Isaiah 9:6 reminds us that the Messiah is our “Prince of Peace”—perpetual, permanent, and pervading.
And then there’s JOY. The angels called their message of the Savior, “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10).
We’ve been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, and that provides absolute forgiveness, wonderful hope, an abiding peace, and a joy the world doesn’t give and can’t take away. How I wish everyone knew and understood this—the true reality of Christmas!
This year, resolve to keep Christ at the center of your celebrations, for our world has never needed Him more. He can wrap us in the swaddling clothes of salvation. In a cold world, He gives us the warmth of His forgiveness, hope, peace, and joy.
David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God, and serves as
Senior Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
For more information about Turning Point, go to www.DavidJeremiah.org.
Poets and painters have tried to capture it. Singers and psychologists have tried to analyze it. But nothing describes love more perfectly than God’s Word. Dr. David Jeremiah gives a guided tour of the Bible’s definitive passage on the subject: First Corinthians 13.