If I had to guess, I’d say that Luke chapter two is probably the most-read passage in the Bible at Christmastime. I can remember many Christmases when we would sit in our pj’s, cross-legged around the Christmas tree with a gift in our hands. We had to wait until Dad read the Christmas story before we could open any gifts. But we wanted to be ready!
When we started our own family, we carried on the tradition. We even acted out the story with our kids, employing their bathrobes as costumes. The story became so familiar over the years that we could quote virtually the whole chapter verbatim. But in all those Christmases I had missed something.
There are many signs given throughout the Bible pointing to Jesus. The sign of the star that the wise men followed may be the most well-known.
It wasn’t until we returned from a trip to Israel a few years ago that I discovered the powerful meaning of sign the angel referred to in Luke 2:11-12.
The angel announced this to the shepherds:
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
What was the sign?
I always assumed that the angel was just telling these sheep herders, “you’ll know you’ve found the right baby when you find One wrapped in a blanket, sleeping in a feeding trough.” That would be the clue. But that is not the sign the angel was referring to.
Like I said, we had the honor of traveling to Israel a few years ago. Thinking about it now, still brings back that same sense of awe and reverence we felt as we walked where Jesus walked.
My grandchildren had asked me to bring them a manger from Bethlehem as a souvenir. With this special mandate in mind, finding a manger was high on my list. I was surprised to discover that in Jesus’ day, a manger was not made with wood and a hammer and nails, but was chiseled out of stone. So, needless to say, rather than hauling home a manger, a picture would have to suffice.
Here’s the picture I took of the manger:
The last day of our trip culminated with the solemn walk down the Via Dolorosa to the place where Jesus laid down His life as the sacrifice for our redemption. Then a visit to the Garden Tomb where Jesus was laid. We went inside the tomb and saw for ourselves that indeed – “He is not here, for He is risen!”
I took this picture of the empty tomb:
It wasn’t until the following Christmas that the pieces came together for me.
I held these pictures side by side and realized the manger looked prophetically similar to the tomb. There are no coincidences with God, everything happens for a reason or – as a sign.
I realized the sign in Luke 2:12, that the angel was referring to wasn’t simply for baby identification, but more importantly it declared this babe’s destiny.
The only baby ever born for the purpose of dying.
Jesus’ destiny was put in place before the earth was created. Jesus is referred to in Revelation 13:8 as “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the earth.” The sign was not only that you would find him in a manger but also that He was destined to die, to be laid in a tomb.
The angel was announcing that Jesus came to die for all mankind – the Savior of us all.
Why? Because God our Heavenly Father wanted a family. He wanted children to lavish His love and gifts on. He wanted you and me.
God didn’t want zombies or puppets who didn’t have a choice to love and follow Him. That’s why He gave man a choice in the Garden of Eden. However, He knew what would happen – man would choose evil. Man would need a savior.
So before God created the earth – the plan was put in place for Jesus to be the Savior of the world. He would come to earth as a human, live a perfect life, and lay down His life for us all.
That’s the plan that began to unfold that first Christmas.
This is the sign we celebrate!
Sometimes our holiday preparations can get so hectic with shopping, baking, decorating, wrapping and Christmas programs that by Christmas night, when we’re shoving the shredded wrapping paper remains into trash bags and cleaning the kitchen for the 100th time we might ask ourself – was that worth it?
But you know, even today after thousands of Christmases, our Heavenly Father still says it was worth it. You are worth it. You are worth everything Jesus went through to redeem you and make you His child. You are important to your Father. You are loved.
John 3:16 “For God so loved ______(put your name in here) that He gave His only Son Jesus!”
As you enjoy all the lights, music and tinsel of this season – as you exchange gifts with family and friends, thank Him for giving the best gift of all – Jesus.
From the manger to the tomb – it’s the sign of God’s love for you this Christmas.
Merry Christmas with love,