“And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12
On that joyous night so long ago of the birth of Jesus our Savior, heavenly messengers sang the announcement of His birth in melody sweeter than anything this earth had ever heard. Would you not have rejoiced to hear such singing? It was the song of heaven revealing to earthly men, sinners, the glory which was theirs for the sake of Him Who now was born. But the message — how strange it was! The Babe would be found in Bethlehem (not in Jerusalem the capital city where was the residence of the king), wrapped in. swaddling clothes (not royal apparel), and lying in a manger (not in the royal palace)—and this fact was the sign that Christ the Savior was born. What a strange sign for the birth of the Lord of lords in human flesh!
Would you want to change that sign? Would you want to dress Him in royal clothing? Would you place Him in the palace of the king? Would you decree a national day of celebration and joy to honor the birth of this newborn King? Or, in this day will you hide this most beautiful sign behind a facade of tinsel and trees? Will you try to forget His lowly birth and join all the rest of the world in this season in its depressing gaiety? Natural man does not want the sign of Christmas.
Let me warn you: do not meddle with the sign! It was not some accident at all whereby He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in that manger. God gave this as a blessed sign, a sign also for us. The angel announced the circumstances of this birth as part of the sign. Let us never seek to change it or cover it up.
Jesus the Savior was born in a manger as a sign. There was no room for Him in the inn. Oh, that was simply a fact. The innkeeper did not lie when he said that his inn was full. But this fact was the sign that there is never room for this Savior. None wanted Him nor sought after Him when He was born (except a few lowly shepherds, two very elderly people in the temple, and some strangers from the East whose hearts God had touched.). That same sign remains today. Despite the great acclaim given this day of Christmas, despite the thousands who take upon themselves His name (Christians), despite the reports that hundreds at a time are ready to “accept” Christ, the sign is still for today — no man really wants this Jesus the Savior. His birth is commemorated again during this season, but the fullness and completeness of His Work is denied. In effect, most of the celebrating of this season is nothing more than an attempt to destroy the Scriptural, spiritual significance of Christmas. The manger is portrayed in this season, but there is always our attempt to remove from ourselves the stigma of its sign; the fact that the manger means that no man of himself ever wants that Savior. Today the world has made of the manger an evidence that Jesus was of the common people. The manger is viewed as being in the same class as the log cabin. It becomes a mark of honor for Christ rather than a sign against wicked and sinful man. We must remember that our rejection of God and of His Son exactly required such humiliation on the part of our Mediator in order that we might be delivered from this awful sin.
Besides, there is the sign of the swaddling clothes. There was nothing disrespectful in the fact itself. Most babes of that day were wrapped in swaddling clothes. Only, here in the manger lies the King of heaven and earth! Should He be in swaddling clothes? Surely, He should be covered with royal clothing — the very best of the land. But that must not be. This too is part of the sign. The King of kings enters our flesh in order that He may completely pay for all the sins of His people. Then He cannot come as an earthly king. An earthly king could not redeem us of our sin. Such a king could command an army of men, possibly he could establish a glorious earthly kingdom, but he could not ransom His people. We would be of all creatures most miserable were the Christ born in the royal palace and clothed in purple. But rather, His coming is in the way of deepest humiliation. His people will be redeemed only through the awful way of the accursed death of the cross. The swaddling clothes are a sign of the beginning of that deliverance which was finished on the cross. The swaddling clothes are a sign that this Babe is truly the Savior for which the faithful in Israel looked. Rejoice then in that glorious sign. Rejoice in the deep humiliation of the King of kings. Truly, you must grieve that it was our corruption which made such humiliation necessary. But also, you must rejoice that God provided that in this way of suffering and death, of which His birth was the beginning, we would be delivered from sin and death.
That is the sign. And it was brought to lowly shepherds in the fields outside of Bethlehem. Year after year they had tended their flocks. They were not the esteemed, the learned, the noble of the earth. They were only poor shepherds. Surely no Phari¬see or scribe would be seen in their presence. King Herod would not have consulted them. Were the angels who spoke of the wonder of Christ’s birth, mistaken when they come down to these shepherds in the fields? Do not these wise angels, who had never fallen from the glory and beauty of their first estate, know that these are only shepherds — the scum of the earth? Should not the angels rather have told the priests at the temple? Were not the scribes and Pharisees the ones to be notified? Ought not the king in the palace of Jerusalem be informed? But the angels come not to them. The sign of the manger and the swaddling clothes was not for the scribes, Pharisees, or priests. The sign was about them, but it was a sign for God’s people who faithfully were looking for this coming. Those are to be informed that their hopes (based upon the promises of God) were now realized. It was not to the wise and prudent, but to the foolish of this world to whom is given the comfort of the sign. Of this number were the lowly shepherds. They had looked for the coming of the Savior. They knew more of Him than did the learned Sanhedrin and the educated scribes. They looked for the Mediator — not for an earthly king. Now they also hear the message that their waiting is ended. So also today the story and the glory of Christmas is not for the world; they cannot understand, they cannot see. But for us, for those united in Jesus Christ, is the assurance of the sign of the birth of the Savior.
Do you refuse to see this sign in Christmas? In all your celebrating, do you seek to cover up the sign of the manger and of the swaddling clothes? Then your celebration of this holiday is nothing more than the paganism from which most, of this day’s “symbols”’ have been taken.
Do yon see the sign in Christmas? Then blessed are ye, for you have beheld the marvel of God’s salvation. He delivers for Himself a people who of themselves did not want Him, for they refused to receive His Son. But God saves them nevertheless, and He gives to them that wonderful longing and desire to seek after Him. That is the blessed sign of the manger to you.
“There is none so poor as he who has only money.’’