A sign? (December 2017 - January 2018)
Luke 2:12 “ This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Signs are markers.When travelling, I look for signs. I can read a map, and I have even followed a GPS on
occasion, but maps sometimes are outdated and GPS gadgets have been known to lead people astray (bad
data in, bad data out)! I prefer a sign that is immediately present and visible. Usually such signs confirm
that I am where I think I am (or prove to me that I am definitely not where I want to be). Signs help us to
get our bearings and, when we approach our destination, to have confidence that we are in the right place.
Long ago, certain shepherds travelled around the countryside near Bethlehem, tending sheep. A messenger
from God appeared, and announced to the frightened shepherds some news — very good news, but most
likely confusing news. The good news was that “a Saviour”, a longhoped
for Redeemer and Ruler, had
been born. Confusion, though, was quite possible, in that the Saviour was not appearing in the form of a
mighty conquering sovereign, but as a little child — a newborn
baby. Clearly, the news was “breaking
news”, but it would be a developing story. All the facts were not yet out.
The messenger, however, told the shepherds to expect and look for a sign: “a baby wrapped in cloths and
lying in a manger”. Now when the shepherds travelled into Bethlehem to follow up, they knew what to
look for: a baby wrapped in cloths in a manger. Animal feeding troughs were not usual beds for babies, and
so the sign for which the shepherds would be looking when they arrived in Bethlehem would be distinctive:
a manger, occupied by a wrapped-up
Luke is careful to tell us (in verse 16) that when the shepherds arrived, they found the baby “who was lying
in the manger”. The sign was very much part of the discovery, and confirmed for the shepherds that they
were in the right place, and in the presence of the promised Saviour.
Today, many people are looking for all sorts of signs. Some want to know what the weather will be like;
some want to know whether it is a good time to invest in an opportunity; some want to know if a job or
position open is right for them; others want to know if they have met the “right” person to be partner or
spouse. Still others want a sign that God is really worthy of trust.
The celebration of Christmas offers an opportunity to remember that God gave the shepherds a sign, and
that sign proved to confirm to them that they had heard rightly the good news — news that was true — and
news that was to be trusted, and acted upon. Not only did the shepherds travel until they came to the sign,
but thereafter they “spread the word” (verse 17) about the child, and they praised God for His faithfulness
and the gift of Jesus as the Saviour of the world.
Ancient signs recorded in the Bible still point to everlasting realities. God is present through the Holy Spirit
and at work in the world and in the lives of ordinary people travelling through the world in our time. Let us
learn the signs, follow them, and rejoice when we find confirmation that we are in the presence of our
Saviour, and invite others to discover the signs too.
Your pastor, rejoicing in the sign of God’s presence and the hope rooted in Jesus Christ