‘Tis the first night of Christmas. The heavens proclaim:
God with us.
Deity made flesh.
Lord sent to earth.
Christ the Savior is born.
This story of Jesus’ birth (and all it portends) is foolish in all worldly ways. Collective humanity is far more wont to desire:
Us as God.
Flesh made divine.
Earth bereft of Lordship.
Death of salvation doctrine.
This list of worldly desires (and all it portends) is a fools’ game, leading to nothing but empty souls full of self.
Surely the arrival of humanity’s Savior indicates this, at the very least: humanity is in desperate need of saving.
Surely the Savior of humanity deserves this at his arrival, at the very least: a crown, a robe, a throne. These are signs worthy of God made flesh, Christ the Savior, Lord of all, Creator of heaven and earth.
As so often happens in the Real Story, things do not progress as one might expect, for the actual signs of Christ’s arrival are shockingly unspectacular and superlatively unpowerful.
And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.
No crown. No robe. No throne. Not a single thing that speaks of royalty or divinity in even the smallest degree.
Sign One: “You will find.” The finding itself is a sign, for without a specific roadmap or address, how is one to find the Savior of the world, especially a Savior who on the first night of his life was hidden among the vast masses of lowly ordinary folk?
Simply by looking. “Let us go and see this thing which the Lord has told us about.”
It really is that simple.
Sign Two: “A baby, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
A baby. A baby.
This is the sign of Christ’s arrival? This is the proclaimed Savior and Lord of all? This is God among us?
“Sign” (sēmeion – σημειον) means this:
a mark, a token, by which a person or a thing is distinguished from others and is known; transcending the common course of nature.
The grown Jesus was often asked for miraculous signs that would prove his identity, that would distinguish him from others, that would transcend the common course of nature. As a general rule, he refused such requests. He knew that signs, spectacular as they may be, can be misused and finicky things.
Still, the grown Jesus, at the most inopportune and unexpected times, displayed sign after sign after sign – most often to the benefit of the vast lowly masses among whom he was born rather than for the morbid curiosity of those who would deny and disown him.
But the newborn Jesus did not display any signs that would qualify as signs, per se. There was no crown. There was no robe. There was no throne. There was no blinking neon sign splattering the peaceful night with its urgent message: MESSIAH ON TAP! OPEN!
The signs, rather than distinguishing Jesus from others, identified him with others. He arrived as a helpless babe, just as we all do.
The signs, rather than proclaiming Jesus as one who transcends the common course of nature, identified him as one who descends to the common course of nature. Humanity. Suffering. Rejection. Death.
If you expect God to give you a sign that Christ IS, perhaps you must do as the shepherds did:
Go and look for this thing that has happened, this Person who has arrived.
Look in the least likely of places, where worldly power is absent and heavenly humility reigns.
The shepherds hurried to the village and found it … the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, they told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said about the baby. Then they went back to work, praising and glorifying God.
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