“‘This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger'” (Luke 2:12, NIV).
I find it ironic that a few lowly shepherds were the first to hear of Jesus’ birth. Shepherds were hardly included in the upper crust of society. In fact, they were despised by most people. But, perhaps, it is for this very reason that God chose them to be the first to encounter the living Christ.
The shepherds in the surrounding fields of Bethlehem had the special task of breeding the lambs that were selected for Temple sacrifice in nearby Jerusalem. Only the choicest of lambs was offered. Therefore, once a lamb was born, the shepherd would wrap it tightly in cloths to keep it from injuring itself. It’s quite possible that the very stable that became the birthing suite of Jesus was also the birthplace of countless lambs before him.
When the angel told the shepherds of the sign given to them, that they would find the newborn Christ wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, these shepherds would likely have known where to find Jesus. The Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world, lay in a stable where multitudes of sacrificial lambs had been born before him. Unlike the temporary atonement they offered, however, Jesus’ one day, once-for-all sacrifice would change the world.