ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.19
19. A Sign for You?
Luke 2:12-14 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”
There is a desire in most of us that says, “Show me, give me a sign.” We feel sufficiently insecure that we desire to be able to see, to have our way ahead lit by a sign that says, this way, it’s all right. The strange thing though, when we come to the Bible, is that God isn’t very good with signs. The shepherds were offered a sign: a baby in a manger – but that meant they had to go down to the town first to find the sign: act then get the sign.
We come to God asking for clarity, light on the path ahead, and He tells us that we are to live by faith not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Faith in the Bible is responding to what God says, so our light is His word and that becomes a lamp to our feet (Psa 119:105), that’s why we need to read it more and more. We’re also called to be led by His Spirit (Gal 5:16,25) which again is something that happens within us, not through our eyes.
When Moses was talking with God at the burning bush, the Lord gave him a sign to prove He was with him – the promise that when he had led Israel out of Egypt, they would worship at this mountain (Sinai). In others words, when you’ve done it you’ll know it was me with you! When God speaks words of prophecy it is so often like that: He says it, you look for it, but don’t find it, He then does it and you look back and realize that it was Him. So often, it seems, God’s ‘signs’ require us to move first.
John in his Gospel speaks of the miracles that Jesus did as ‘signs’ (Jn 2:11, 4:54 etc.), but of course they were only recognized as such by those whose hearts were open and seeking. Others simply criticized and asked for more ‘signs’ (e.g. Jn 2:18). It seems again and again the Lord wants us to respond to what He says and then, and only then, it becomes clear. It’s when we step forward trusting, that a voice comes from behind us saying, “This is the way walk in it” (Isa 30:21). So if you’re looking for a sign from God, in His graciousness He may just give you one (e.g. to Gideon – Judges 6:36-40), but more often than not, He waits for you to act in faith before the sign comes.
So the angel tells them about the baby who will be God’s Chosen One, the Christ or Messiah (v.11). The fact that he’s there, as I said, will be sufficient for you to believe what I’ve said is true, is what the angel is saying. When you look, you will find – but you need to look first. That’s how it works with God – then and now!
Then it’s as if heaven couldn’t contain itself for suddenly there is a great company – very many – angels, all singing of God’s greatness. The Christmas story is littered with angelic appearances. It’s as if heaven is coming to earth to accompany the coming of the Son. Of course it wasn’t until much later that Jesus himself spoke about how he had always existed and had come down to earth from heaven (Jn 6:33,38,41,51,58). The glory that had been in heaven, now somehow compressed, was now on the earth (Phil 2:6-8). The presence of the singing angels is not the incredible thing; it’s the presence of the very Son of God who is the incredible thing, God on earth. This presence on earth of the Son was evidence of the wonder (glory) of God’s plans for mankind, peace that will be brought between God and man, through this Son. The angels are singing of the wonder that is possible for you and me – peace with God!