“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12
When I was a young boy Christmas was, in every sense of the word, magical. The sparkling snow (when we had it), the soul-lifting music, the pine-scented decorations, amazing food, the anticipation, laughter and love of my family were lights in the night getting us ready to hear again the deep message in God’s greatest announcement: Emanuel has come.
But this year, the whole story is brand new. This year among these familiar events, I found something new, and it has changed me.
We know that on the night when Jesus was born, the historical record says that a few angels dropped in on some shepherds in the hills of Judea. The angels had “good news of great joy that is for all people.” The Savior had been born.
In the fullness of time, God’s promise of redemption had been kept. Out of darkness a light had begun to shine. The dark night of man’s separation from the Creator was ending. Unity and wholeness were dawning.
Really good news.
But in this account, the angels did more than just tell the story: they showed how the shepherds could know it was real.
At the time of this story, Bethlehem is packed with people, since many were traveling to their towns of origin to be registered for a census. How many babies could be found in Bethlehem that night? Probably more than one: so many, in fact, that the angels told the shepherds how they could distinguish the Savior from all other newborns: He would be the One whom they would find wrapped in cloth strips and lying in a manger . . . probably not two of those!
Our Heavenly Father cared so much about the shepherds finding His Son, that He provided a sign so that they wouldn’t miss Him.
“This shall be a sign for you. . . ”
But this gets even better . . .
In the original Greek, whenever the angel is speaking to the shepherds, the word, “you” is singular. The mystery of God becoming a man was a note for the whole world, but the invitation to seek Him, find Him, know Him and worship Him is offered as an individual one. The good news was for all people everywhere, but that night for the shepherds, it became really personal: this shall be a sign for YOU: YOU will find the Savior, as a baby in a manger.
What would you have done with a personal message like that?
The shocking and vast magnitude of this event can, unfortunately, make it seem impersonal. Like the burning of Rome, Columbus landing in America, or the construction of the Great Wall of China, the birth of Jesus can fade into the pages of a book, insulated by the passage of centuries from any kind of personal impact or meaning.
But this Christmas, I think God wants me to know that His gift is a personal one: He is pointing the way to a closer understanding of Who He is . . . of what He is doing. He’s giving a sign.
In the confusion of circumstances, seemingly unanswered prayers, the sometimes dead weight of daily life, He is stepping in to show the way to find Him. I won’t miss it. He’s in plain view. He’s pointing to Jesus. No one is like Him.
All that I need or would ever want: every hope, dream, answer, remedy that I seek can be found in a manger, wrapped in strips of cloth.
This Good News is for the whole world, and it is for me, if I can accept it. The Father is pointing the way to the sign of His great love, Jesus.
This year, in an old story, I have found a Christmas present.
The good news about this present?
It has my name on it.
It’s for you, too.
“For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:19-21