Signs Surrounding Christmas
Written by Dale Ebel
Signs are always helpful and effective. Signs like: “Keep Out”, “Open”, ‘Detour,” “Help Wanted,” “Child Sleeping,” or “In Session,” all communicate something of significance that provides direction or clarification. Throughout Scripture the word translated, “sign,” is used 67 times in various ways.
It’s interesting to me that surrounding the birth of Christ there were four signs given:
(1) the sign of the virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14)
(2) the sign of the guiding star (Matthew 2:2)
(3) the sign of the swaddling clothes (Luke 2:12)
(4) the sign of the stumbling stone (Luke 2:34-35)
The first sign is found in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call him Emmanuel.” This son would be like no other person. He would be Emmanuel, “God with us!” The sign of the virgin birth, more correctly stated, the virgin conception, was biologically impossible without a mighty miracle of divine creation. This miraculous incarnation assures us that the omnipotent God has entered the human family once and for all. This miraculous sign points to the miracle of our spiritual birth that only comes about because of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Titus speaks of the miracle of the incarnation with respect to our salvation:
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…” – Titus 3:4,5
The second sign, the star, has been the subject of much speculation. I will not go into the various views on this, but Scripture is clear that this was a literal star (See Matthew 2:2). What is so intriguing about this historical account is the fact that these Gentiles were wise enough to seek for the King of the Jews who was predicted in the Word of God. They were magi, who were members of the priestly caste in Persia, and who were experts in astronomy, astrology, and the Old Testament. Daniel and Mordecai had a profound influence on the Persian kings, so the magi could reasonably conclude that this spectacular star was, indeed, “his star” (Matthew 2:2). Even though the text of Scripture does not say the star was a sign, it is fair to conclude that God used it to bring the magi to look for the “King of the Jews” some two years later after the birth of Christ.
So today “wise seekers” will seek out the prophecies of old to discover the hidden realities of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, God’s anointed one.
Even the Psalmist states that the heavens declare the glory of God, and Paul in Romans 1:20 says that “… the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”
We do not need the sign of the star… we simply ought to respond to physical creation and glorify Him as the true God! (See Romans 1:21).
The third sign is the sign of swaddling clothes. “And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.” – Luke 2:12
Who would have thought the “King of the Jews”, the “Messiah,” the “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords,” would be born in such humble conditions? Yet this is a crucial ingredient in the message of Christmas. We find our purpose, joy, destiny, and power when we humble ourselves before the obscure Jesus born in an animal cave which is an even more humble feeding trough.
“The humble shall see this salvation and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God.” – Psalm 69:32
The fourth sign is the sign of the stumbling stone. Scriptures says, “…This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” – Luke 2:34. The opposition that would mark the entire life of Christ would begin with his birth, as Herod would unsuccessfully seek to slay Him. Many would fall over this “rock of offense” in Israel (See 1 Peter 2:8) as Jesus carried out His Father’s will.
This sign points to the reality that each of us has an opportunity to respond to the complete message of Jesus Christ. For those who walk daily and consistently in his light, we will be lifted up to the place where we live not for our own desires but to fulfill His powerful purposes.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10
This Christmas would you remember these four signs surrounding the birth of Christ?
The sign of the Virgin Birth reminds us of our spiritual birth.
The sign of the star reminds us that true seekers still seek Him.
The sign of the swaddling clothes reminds us that surrender is essential.
The sign of the stumbling stone reminds us that we are to remain steadfast.
May you follow these signs to build your faith and strengthen your heart this Christmas!
In Christ, Merry Christmas!