The Sign for Us

Image “” The Queen of the Shepherds  » (detail) by Antonio Balestra / Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

We want proof and miracles. But God gives us ordinary life.

After four weeks of waiting—if we have really waited well-the words that greet us during the church’s liturgy on Christmas night might bring joyful tears to our eyes. The Savior has come! The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Does this excite us? This is the purpose of Advent—to stir up in our hearts the anticipation for Our Savior, to feel the emptiness that the Christ child has come to fill, to years for an answer to our inadequacies, to get some glimpse of what the Jewish people longed for centuries.

“For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.”

He has come. In the darkness of a still night, the Savior breathes the air of earth for the first time. What accompanies this earth-shattering moment? Greets this pivotal point in history? Marks this juncture of heaven-meeting-earth?

The account of Jesus ‘ birth is not marked with miracles but with ordinary details: details about who is governor, where Joseph is from, and the simple fact that Mary gave birth. Luke tells us, “while they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Could a baby’s birth be written? It was time for Mary to give birth, and she did. The marvels don’t come until almost halfway into the story, when angels appear to the shepherds. But while the shepherds see a glorious heavenly host of angels, the sign the angels give them is much less spectacular. A baby. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

“For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.”

We want proof and miracles. But God gives us ordinary life. At the most important moment in human history, The King of kings and Lord of lords comes to us as baby. In the darkness of the night, in the fullness of time, what awaits the shepherds who seek this sign in faith? Ordinary life.  A father caring for his wife who has just given birth. A mother nursing her son. A family being a family.

In the dark moments of our lives, we seek answers and signs and miracles. Perhaps we receive those miracles.  But perhaps more often the answers come to us in the mantle of ordinary life.  It takes more faith to accept these answers, just as it takes more faith to bow before a baby in swaddling clothes than a king in splendid robes.

He has come. But are we ready now to follow - even when the signs and narrative are not what we expected? That question is not just for our elder brothers in faith, but is a daily question we must answer with our lives.

« For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.”

Merry Christmas!

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