Week 5: Swaddled in Humanity

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Luke 2:6-15


Christmas is the time where there are lots of unwrapping of boxes, bags, toys packaged in plastic so complicated it requires an advanced engineering degree to open. In our family, there was a bit of a competition for several years about who could make the most difficult package to unwrap of Christmas morning. One year there were yards of wrapping paper, fishing line and paperclips in an effort to keep my dad away from his gift. 

The gift of Christmas that the shepherds set out to visit, however, does not have elaborate paper or a bow, but a simple swaddle. This detail is mentioned twice in this text. So, what is so important about the fact that Mary swaddles her newborn? I think that the most profound is also the most obvious: There is nothing special at all. Babies, especially newborns, need to be swaddled to keep warm, to feel safe, and to learn how to soothe themselves. Such an ordinary and unremarkable fact points us to the extraordinary reality that the God of the universe has in fact become a normal child

As a parent, swaddling was one of my favorite skills. Our oldest son really benefited from this practice. He would be inconsolable one minute, but by the time you wrapped him fabric so tight, Harry Houdini could not escape from it, he would begin to calm down and rest. It was like magic.  It is humanizing to remember that Jesus, though he was born as God, still had the same limitations as a human. He cried and fussed, needed to be fed and consoled, probably annoyed his parents depriving them of many silent nights.  

God born in human flesh and with our human frailties has long been interpreted by non-Christians as a fault in our beliefs. Gods are intended to be all powerful and unchanging. That is not the God we believe in. Yes, God is powerful and consistent, however, that power and consistency comes from God’s willingness to give up the trappings of divinity in order to be in relationship with us. Reconciling a broken and hurting world with a God of healing and love is more important to God than all the power that comes from divinity. The paradox of our faith is, however, that while God limits God’s being in Jesus, we discover that those limitations do not curtail the ultimate saving ability of God, but instead inject salvation into the very places of pain and brokenness. As John says so eloquently in his prologue, the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.” 

And so on Christmas morning as you wrap up snuggly in a warm blanket, and perhaps enjoy some cookies fresh out of the oven, may you feel safe and secure knowing that whatever dark places there are in our world, or whatever pain our fear you may be experiencing, that God, in Jesus has become human, and has entered into pain and fear—You are not alone! And remember also that the baby, who was once wrapped and comforted in his mother’s arms, grew up, matured, lived, died, and was raised to new life, so that he could wrap us in the power of resurrection and new life, so that God, through Jesus, can make all things new. 


Emmanuel, God with us. God with me. Thank you for the gift of your entrance into this world. Thank you for your willingness to enter into the pain and struggle, the heartache and the grief. You did not have to do that, but you chose to do that for me and for our world. Thank you for loving us that much. Thank you for bringing us so close. Help me to feel secure knowing that your presence with me is enough to move through whatever challenges I am in. Amen. 

Baking Reflections

This week’s final recipe is for Kolache Cookies. These are a traditionally Eastern European treat which in addition to being delicious, resemble a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. I know for many families the last few hours of Christmas Eve can be stressful. My goal with this recipe was something that is easy, and fun. The dough which is simple and gets its sweetness from the jam rather than white sugar is much more kid friendly than some of our previous options. 

My suggestion is that you combine the dough in the afternoon on Christmas Eve and let the dough rest in the fridge while you are in church. As the ingredients come together, reflect on the reflection you have had, what has God highlighted for you in your heart? What are you feeling called to do differently? What do you need to bring to the manger with you in worship? Then once the dough has chilled either tonight or in the morning, roll and cut out the cookies and as you fill and wrap each bit of jam, just take some time to marvel in the mystery of a God who loves you, and our world enough to come to us, wrapped in flesh and swaddled like a baby so that we can know the transformative depths of divine love for ourselves. 


Kolache Cookies

Recipe adapted from Diana Rattray from thespruceeats.com
Before baking, check out out baking tips.
Yields: 18-20 cookies


Wet Ingredients

  • 1 Stick of Butter (softened) (113g)
  • 3oz Cream Cheese (softened) (85g)

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 1/4c All Purpose Flour (150g)


  • 1/4-1/3c jam of your choice. 


  1. Cream the Butter and Cream Cheese until fluffy. 
  2. Add the Flour and blend well. 
  3. Dump dough onto plastic wrap and flatten into a rough square. 
  4. Refrigerate for at least 20-30 minutes. 
  5. When ready to bake, heat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  6. Lightly flour a flat surface and using a rolling pin, roll the dough to about 1/8 inches thick.
  7. Cut into 2 ½ inch squares and place an inch apart on the baking tray. 
  8. Spoon 1/2t of jam into the center of each square. 
  9. Get a small bowl of water and with your fingers slightly moisten two opposite corners of the square and bring together (like a swaddle!). Pinch the ends together so they bond and give a slight twist before gently pressing flat. With your fingertips or a spoon, press the folded edges gently to discourage the cookies from opening in the oven.
  10. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. When they are cool, you can dust with powdered sugar, if you want to. 

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