There are lots of things in the Bible that cause me to stop and wonder. There are lots of things I don’t understand, and there are more things that I understand, but then don’t know how to handle. And here is one of them. When the angels announce the birth of Jesus they give the shepherds a sign. Here’s the sign—a baby, wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger.
Now, once we get past the romanticism of our Renaissance painting of the nativity scene, you have to wonder, what kind of sign is that? A baby? There are lots of babies! Wrapped in cloth? Everybody born in this time was wrapped like this. Lying in a manger? Okay—this one may have been a little unique, but maybe not as unique as we might think. The shepherds were working men who made their living in livestock, and they would have been comfortable in stables, around animals. I am sure, while working, either the shepherds or one of their wives could have placed a baby in a manger. After all, you can’t hold a baby 24 hours a day, and let’s face it— a manger is the perfect size to hold a baby.So what is the sign?
Is it that things looked pretty normal? No, the sign is Jesus Himself. In our confused efforts to find meaning in every object of the story, we miss the obvious. The sign is Jesus. The sign isn’t those things around the baby or the circumstance of the baby’s birth. The baby is the sign. Jesus Himself is the message. . . “In the beginning was the WORD. . . and the WORD became flesh.” Late in His ministry, Jesus challenged His listeners because they wanted to see a sign. Jesus said the only sign this generation would get would be the sign of Jonah. And what sign was that? It was the sign of a prophet preaching, calling a city to immediate repentance in the face of coming judgment. The only sign was Jonah preaching, and now the only sign is Jesus.
Let’s face it, if the sign of God in human form isn’t going to convince you, what will? Will it be lightening and thunder, will it be the Tennessee River running backwards? What? God has come to our world. Jesus is here. He is the only sign. He is all that we need.
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