In order to clarify God’s plan for his life, Gideon asked for a sign from the Lord. (You may remember that he used some rotating wet and dry carpets.) Well, the Christmas story has some “sign seekers” too.
One group was the “wisemen” who followed the star and came to worship the new born baby, Jesus. They were looking for a “sign” (perhaps because the prophet Daniel had long ago taught their company about the coming Messiah). Their group eagerly waiting for more than 600 years for the star to appear and lead them to the place where the messiah would be identified. These “sign seekers” saw the baby as the fulfillment of those prophecies.
And then there were the shepherds. Most of us think that they were just unlearned shepherd boys who drew the short straw and had to tend the flocks out on the hills around Judea. But the truth of the matter is, these were very special shepherds. They were responsible for the lambs and small goats that were used as sacrifices in the temple.
And not just any sacrifice, these young men were responsible for the Paschal lambs used on Passover. Those young animals had to be without spot or blemish. They had to be cared for in meticulous ways.
So, when a lamb was born in their flock, it would immediately be removed from the rest of the animals, carefully cleaned and washed and then wrapped tightly in rags so that no harm could come to the newborn. As soon as it was covered, the lamb would be placed in a kind of trough for safe keeping. Nothing could harm it there.
These shepherds were used to seeing little bundles wrapped and stuck in a manager. But the angel gave them a special announcement. That holy night, they were given a heavenly sign. They were to go find a new born bundle, but the bundle was a baby!
They hurried off and sure enough, they found Mary and Joseph and the baby clothed in rags, lying in a manger.
Their reaction to the fulfillment of their sign was to spread the word. “They went out into the fields glorifying and praising God for all the things they had been told.”
We celebrate Christmas this week. And God has been kind enough to give us all kinds of “signs” too. There are over 300 prophecies (notes about “history in advance”) that detail the birth, life and death of Christ. We can be “sign seekers” too and study them at our leisure right out of our Bible.
So, this week, let’s be incredibly intentional about noticing those “signs” and share the good news with everyone we encounter. That baby was born. He was wrapped in rags. He was placed in a smelly manger. Praise the Lord, He did come to die for you and me!