"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)
What is a sign for? I've always figured a sign is there to point the way to where you're going. Ideally, it will be clear and about ten feet tall. I should also see it somewhere before I actually reach the goal of my journey—right?
But the angel's words to the shepherds bother me: "This will be a sign to you," he says ... and then goes on to tell them something basically useless for finding Jesus! Think about it: by the time they come face-to-face with the baby in a manger, they've already found Him. They've already blundered through the dark streets of Bethlehem, knocking on doors, asking random sleepy householders: "Hello. Have you heard of any newborns tonight?" This "sign" is useless for finding anything.
There are other signs like this in the Bible. "The Lord Himself will give you a sign," says Isaiah to King Ahaz. "A virgin shall conceive ..." (Isaiah 7:14b). Fine—except that both men were centuries dead by the time Jesus was conceived! And then there's God's promise to Moses during the burning bush episode: "This shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain" (Exodus 3:12). I want to say, "Fine, Lord; after I see You send ten plagues and split the sea and rescue us all by miracle, when I no longer doubt You, then You will give me this sign!"
God is no fool. He knows these signs aren't going to prove anything to us, or offer us much practical guidance, while we are still on the way. So why give them at all?
Maybe these signs are something other than road signs. Maybe they're more like signatures—God's way of writing "mission accomplished" and signing His Name to whatever great work He has done. The signs aren't there to show us the way. They are there to point to the One who is our Way—and to underline the fact that He has done it—all of it, all the guiding, all the saving.
We are used to thinking of Jesus' birth as a beginning. But perhaps the baby in a manger is an ending—an ending to God's long-hidden plan for overcoming the devil and rescuing His people. Wait no longer. Travel no further. Here He is—the sign, the signature, the baby in a manger.
THE PRAYER: Lord, help me to recognize and thank You for the great salvation You have prepared for us. Amen.
Used by permission; all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM).