As I mentioned yesterday, I’m catching up on some posts on my blog and wanted to share my Christmas Eve message, “Signs of the King,” with you all. Although the message is not available yet in audio or video format, I am including the entire text of the message below. I rarely write out my messages, but for shorter ones that require such precision, brevity, and clarity I often do so. Enjoy!
Christmas Eve 2016 – “Signs of the King”
This past year one of my sons received his driver’s license. It took me back to those days many of us may remember – and some of us anticipate – when we are learning the rules of the road. Some things change, but a lot of things don’t change: it’s still scary to learn to drive (even if you’re excited about it) – it’s still stressful to take your driver’s test – and you still have to know what the signs mean.
When I first received my driver’s license, I was driving with my friend, Nathan, who told me that every STOP sign with a white border was optional. So…at the next STOP sign with a white border, I decided to just cruise right through it…and he freaked out. It was a dumb thing to do because, in case you didn’t know it, every STOP sign has a white border around it…and none of them are optional…they all mean the same thing: STOP.
Signs tell us something, and we need to pay attention. But there are different kinds of signs.
When you see Christmas Trees, tiny lights, Santa Claus, and lots of red decorations going up in stores in October, it’s a sign: the Christmas shopping season is about to begin.
When we’re in a dating relationship but the person we’re dating doesn’t make the relationship a priority, doesn’t tell us about their life, and acts like their single in public, then it’s probably a sign the relationship isn’t going anywhere. It’s good to pay attention.
When a kid has a sudden drop in grades, has lost or damaged belongings, or is avoiding social situations, it may be a sign they are being bullied. It’s good for an older sibling or adult to pay attention.
If you are having face drooping, arm weakness, or speech difficulty, it may be a warning sign of a stroke and you should call 9-1-1. You need to pay attention.
There are different kinds of signs: physical, social, relational…but all signs tell us something, and we need to pay attention.
In the Gospel of Luke, one of the four books of the Bible that tells us about the life of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the story of Jesus’ birth. We’ve heard many parts of it already today.
This story comes at a key time in the history of the world. While the occupying Roman Empire clamps down on a Middle Eastern colony at the crossroads of trade routes, God brings a message through an angel to an old man serving in the Temple in Jerusalem. Zechariah hears that God is bringing in a new age of His goodness to humanity and that a baby will be born to him and his wife, Elizabeth, in their old age. The baby will be named John, meaning “God is gracious,” and he will bring joy and delight to people, preparing them for the new work of God. You might say it’s a sign…so we should pay attention.
Shortly thereafter, about 80 miles away, a young woman named Mary has a similar experience. She is probably 13 or 14 – a middle school girl – and she hears from an angel that she will have a miraculous child. His name will mean “God saves” and He will usher in a new age of God’s goodness and power in human experience. He will be a good and powerful ruler like King David from ages ago. Mary’s response, perhaps more faith-filled than anything else in the Bible, is: “I’m ready to serve – may it happen just as God has said” (Luke 1:38). It’s a sign…and we should pay attention.
Joseph, who was engaged to Mary, takes her as his wife because an angel had spoken to him as well. Another sign – pay attention! The baby grows inside of Mary. This young couple makes their way to Joseph’s hometown to pay their taxes – such a mundane thing – and while there this miracle baby is born in David’s town, Bethlehem. There is no palace with regal bed for this promised Savior King. No, instead He is wrapped in cloths and placed in a feed trough, surrounded by the animals brought in for the night. In what was likely a two-room guesthouse, there was not enough room to dedicate one space for this new family (Luke 2:7).
And so, Jesus is born…God saves…The cool night air reverberates with the cry of a baby, and that crying voice is God Himself crying out over the world. It’s a sign, so let’s pay attention.
In the midst of that holy night, an angels bursts in with important news; the fourth time an angel appears in the story. But it is not to kings’ palaces or influential people that the angel hosts come. Rather, the message comes to a humble group of shepherds on the outskirts of Bethlehem in stone-strewn fields.
The angel declares aloud: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Well, we’ve expected this and heard these things, but the shepherds had not. This is a glorious message that God has not forgotten His people even though Rome is reigning over them. It’s a sign…pay attention: God hasn’t forgotten; there is hope.
But catch this; the angel goes on to say: “This will be a sign to you.” What would you expect if you were the shepherds? What is the sign you would expect for this glorious message. What would you and I need to pay attention to in response to this divine interruption? The angel says, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
It’s a sign…pay attention: a swaddled baby in a feed trough.
Now, that may seem anticlimactic. No fireworks show like the Rio Olympics. No massive parade like for Queen Elizabeth’s birthday. No one dyes the Jordan River green like at St. Patrick’s Day. The sign is surprising in its simplicity: a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger…but we need to pay attention.
For it is in the midst of ordinary humanity that God is at work. Jesus comes, the Savior promised to usher in a new age, the King who brings God’s Kingdom, in flesh and bone yet fully divine, to lead us into a new life filled with God’s goodness.
It is a sign…so pay attention with me to the glory of God in the apparent simplicity of Jesus.
In Jesus, God is showing forth His majesty.
He is a sign of the goodness & the greatness of God.
He has come to rescue us from the power of evil whose signs we read in the wars around the world and the threats in our neighborhoods.
He has come to give us hope for now and forever in the face of the fear and dread which rises up like a signpost in our health, our relationships, and our future.
Jesus has come, in the midst of a life marked with the signs of wrongs done to us and the wrongs we do to others, to show us that the sin and wrong are not the end, but can be overcome in Him.
Jesus has come – He is the sign – so let’s pay attention.
“This will be a sign for you,” the angel says, even now, to us.
So pay attention to the sign of the King:
- He brings hope
- He brings joy
- He brings love
- He brings restoration
- He brings deliverance
- He brings salvation
- He brings new beginnings
- He brings eternal rest and peace
In the midst of all there is to see and hear…as the din of the marketplace echoes around us…and the message of ‘happy holidays’ tickles our ears…
There is a sign beyond the signs for a sale or the twinkling lights…
There is a sign in the midst of rough and tumble humanity in dark paths and quiet nights. The sign…so small…so normal…so simple…
The sign is telling us…God is here in Jesus Christ.
This is what Christmas is all about.
So how about you and me this Christmas? Will we see the signs and respond to Jesus?
Even now, this day of December 24, 2016, is an opportunity for a signpost in our life. To say to God, “I see the sign – I am paying attention – and I will worship the king.”