08 December 2010

A Sign for You

by Frank Turk

the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."
If you don't celebrate Christmas, just go on doing whatever it is you do this time of year and come back after the New Year starts. The rest of us have some serious theological self-improvement to consider.

You know: God spent millennia teaching Israel about himself and His plan for all things, and it's worth debating whether they got any of it or not. And during those millennia, God used all kinds of amazing stuff to spell it out for them -- like parting the sea for dry land for them to walk on, and free bread in the morning every morning until they were ready to enter the Promised Land, and fire burning up the priests to Baal. God's not one to spare the special effects when He has a purpose for them.

But here we are at the moment that the world was made for -- the moment when Christ the Lord would be born -- and angels appear to tell some shepherds that this is happening. And when they appear, they don't say, "This is pretty cool, huh? This is the sign for you, cowboys: a host of angels singing God's praises -- because you saw this sign, you can know that God is in it."

See: the angels were not the sign, were they? They were just the messengers. Seriously: they were just the guys with the telegram for the field hands who smelled like sheep. The sign, they said, was the baby in a feeding trough -- a baby in a manger. It wasn't a sign that ministers like a flame of fire had something to say: it was that there was a baby born in the city of David in a lowly place.

You see: at many times and in many ways, God spoke to the fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.

Think about that, and I'll be back next week to tell you what you should have thought.


Canyon Shearer said...

Amen; it has been a while since I've been inspired to write a gospel tract, but you're the third to preach on these shepherds in less than a week, and it's really motivating me to write a Christmas tract for a mail-out this year instead of a newsletter or card, examining all we can learn from these Shepherds.

Love this quote: "God's not one to spare the special effects when He has a purpose for them."

Mike Westfall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Westfall said...

The Writer of Hebrews seems to think that Jesus is our latter-day prophet, rather than Joseph Smith, or Mrs. White or Benny Hinn or Patricia King or our subjective glory experiences, or our pizza-with-anchovies induced hallucinations or our "felt needs" or the latest fill-in-the-blank ladies' Bible study fad, or our hunch that Effie next door is fooling around with Ralph across the street, or...

Sir Brass said...

Showing a link between the beginning of Hebrews and the nativity at the Incarnation...


I hadn't thought of that before, but it's all right there.

He has spoken to us through His son, indeed, and that mighty deed was done in lowliness. Even more amazing.

I would call that undisputable proof that God's hand was at work. No man-made religion would make up something like that. A man-made religion would have insisted that the nativity was in reality actually quite like those paintings we see of it today:

Jesus glowing with a halo, and mary looking serene and kneeling and Joseph standing by. No muck, no filth, no dark stable, no messed up manger. All nice, pristine, reverent. Not.... well you know.... normal.

Lord forbid that He should do anything by ordinary means. I mean, we've gotta have a light show or we just can't be sure it's from God, right? The 1st century jews thought that way, so that's gotta be correct, right?


I think some of your pointed wit is bleeding off, Frank.

Anonymous said...

Free indeed! We don't have to search anymore, no more guessing.

Thomas Louw said...

“You see: at many times and in many ways, God spoke to the fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son”
In the Old Testament God the Father spoke through His prophets and signs, then the Son spoke and the signs He did, confirmed Him as the Messiah.
Then He spoke to man through the apostles, confirming the truth of what they wrote and did with signs and wonders.
So the pattern “message plus signs.”
So if there are no signs and special effects today, God must be saying nothing or maybe Benny is talking the truth:)
Or maybe John 1:1 gives us a hint.
Maybe the scripture is God’s “herald” revealing to us God through the work of the Holy Spirit and the signs are the saved sinners going into the throne room and having been sealed by the indwelling Spirit.

John said...

You'll be back to tell us what we should have thought! Perhaps you should replace Glenn Beck...

Just kidding. Good introduction to what I assume will be a good post.

Matt Aznoe said...

The sign was the true nature of the incarnation. The Jews were expecting a mighty king who would liberate them from the Romans and establish a mighty kingdom. Instead, they had a Messiah who "made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
(Php 2:7-8 ESV)

The sign of the manger was that God had come down to us, literally and figuratively.

Rob Bailey said...

I know what I think. I am stinkier than any of those field hands.

bad bob said...

Nice to hear from you Frank. I'll go do other stuff for a week and be back to read what I should have known all along. God be with you - and, no season stressing, OK?

Merrilee Stevenson said...

As a parent, I know how often times when I tell my kids ahead of time the wonderful plans that I have for them, they get so excited about it that in no time they are in trouble with me for not continuing to listen and obey me. But when I keep my plans secret, sometimes they end up being able to enjoy it with far fewer disciplinary needs (they're still trouble, even when nothing's going on). : )

Just makes me think about the fact that God the Father kept the arrival of His son "under wraps" for the most part, so that we wouldn't go and try to ruin it. (Not that we could anyway.)

Hayden said...

I hope that you will examine all of the angel announcements surrounding Christ's birth. I have been preaching on them since the week after Thanksgiving and they have created a sense of expectation in my heart.

I will get to these angels and I will definitely include what I read here in the sermon.

Strong Tower said...

Great joy!

Tragedy though, that we have to have a sign to have great joy. Thus the chasing of signs by many. But wait, is that entirely wrong-headed? The shepherds should have had great joy at least in anticipation... that is if they knew... like we know that we have great joy laid up for us in heaven, one that will be established truly and purely when he appears. But... we often don't enjoy him forever, now. Cuz, we got to go back to work and tend da sheeps.

One can't help but speculate that when scripture says that sorrow lasts for the night but joy comes in the morning what happened with the sheperds whose joy was for the night?

To put this in perspective, what great joy Liz had at the approach of the mother of her Lord, what amazement Mary had, what joy Simeon felt at the temple. Yet, behind this is a sword that will pierce the heart, laying open secrets, the fall of many in Israel, the deaths of the first born of Bethlehem. The narrative reads more like daze of our lives, joy gives way to tragedy and despair.

However, as you said, this last time he has spoken by His Son. The long awaited relief from sorrow has come, it is the dawning of a new day. We await the rising of the Son of Righteousness with healing in his wings, that final Son rise. Jesus gave us this: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full... Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. He patiently speaks of his crucifixion with the assurance that he has overcome the world, that they should have joy to the max. Ask, even today he will give you assurance, a joy, that the promises he made he will keep. So ask for the sign, it is his good will to give it that your joy may be full.

A great sermon on John 16.

James Joyce said...

I know this is totally off topic, but I can't read that passage without hearing Linus' voice in my head.

Frank Turk said...

I can't read that passage without crying, so I guess we're even.

ZSB said...

How does this get fewer comments than "I got nothin'..."?

Great stuff, Frank.

Frank Turk said...

What I don't get is how this post gets 3 stars and "I got Nothing" got 5 stars. What sort of internet villainy causes such things?

donsands said...

"..unto you is born..a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."

You will know this baby is the Savior , when you go to the city of David and see a newborn laying in a stable's trough.

It may not look like a place the Messiah would be born, but it is.

All the angels and the incredible things you saw are wonderful, but they are secondary, to Christ (Messiah) the Lord.

I just read this portion of Scripture to my Mom yesterday, as she is slowly and surely passing from this life to the next. I have read this to her many times. Yesterday was the first time I cried. It was a mixture of feelings, and perhaps the Spirit of Christ filling Mom and me.

Thanks for the good post.

Rachael Starke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachael Starke said...

Well, the only reason I didn't comment yet is because I'm still pondering in my heart all the thought-provoking things you've been posting at your new place,

and out of sisterly concern for your soul and not wanting you to get th' big head or anything,

I didn't want to say that your Christmas posts are some of my favorites and that I'll be thinking about what signs are and aren't, and lowly places, for the rest of the day. Thanks.

joel said...

I had never realized it before, but it struck me as strange that the Angels told the shepherds that the sign of the coming of their Christ was the new born baby. I would have to read the whole passage more carefully, but I don't think they were told that the newborn was the Christ, just that he was the sign of the Christ. It is interesting that God chose the sign of the first coming of Christ to be the first coming of Christ. I wonder what the sign of the second coming of Christ will be?

donsands said...

"I don't think they were told that the newborn was the Christ"

When you look more carefully, you will see different.

Steve B said...

I find it interesting that the angels appeared to a group of shepherds. NOT before the court of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Wonder why?

Kinda off topic, but I also like this passage because in verse 25 & 26 (at least in the NASB) it mentions how the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon, and how the Holy Spirit revealed these things to him. Which, kinda causes problems for those who say the Holy Spirit only showed up beginning with Pentecost.

Robert said...

God speaks to us through His Son, not through any "Word from God" that we might see fit to bring to people...not through any feelings or things we might interpret to be signs. God speaks to us through the Bible. When we try to seek other things as coming from God, be it pastors, feelings, "signs", experiences, we really miss the target. I'm not saying that we can't see God working through things in our life, but the only way that we see any of that is because of the Bible. If we get caught up in these things, then we'll miss God speaking to us through His Son in the Bible.

Hayden said...


swing and a miss on that one. There is also John 20. No one thinks that the work of the Holy Spirit was absent during the time of the apostles. The question is how did he work?

"God's Indwelling Presence" by Hamilton is helpful here.

joel said...

Thanks Don,
Maybe I should have read it through before commenting. I guess my real point was, and maybe it is totally superfluous, was that the sign that the Christ had come was the newborn infant, the Christ. It just struck me as strange that the sign of the coming of the thing was the thing itself. I new I should not have thought for myself when Frank had already promised to do it for me.

donsands said...

"I new I should not have thought for myself .."

Joel, thinking for yourself is good.

You make a good point.

The Messiah had come. And the shepherds were to go and find the Babe by looking for a child in a trough.

The shpherds also may have been there to protect the child. Not sure. But shepherds were some tough dudes. David was a shepherd, and Moses.

"And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them."

Matt Aznoe said...


I respectfully disagree. The only way that we see any of that is because of the Holy Spirit. Without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, the Bible would just be a book of good sayings and interesting stories. It is the Holy Spirit that teaches us through the scriptures who God is, what He has done, and what He expects us to do in response. This is why there are millions of people who have read the Bible but it has not changed their lives. To them, it is just a book, but to those of us who believe, it is the very Word of God brought to life by the power of God through the Holy Spirit.

Remember as well that the Word of God is Jesus Himself (John 1), and He is the "living and abiding word of God" (1 Peter 1:23).

Stefan said...


A very interesting post, to think that at that moment in time, the evidence that a really stupendous, earth-shattering event had taken place (the Incarnation) and would take place (the Crucifixion and Resurrection) was simply the birth of a baby. Kind of mind-bending.

I didn't comment, because like Joel, I was waiting for you to come back next week and tell us what we were supposed to think.

Robert said...

Yes, Matt...we need the Holy spirit in order to understand Scripture. But we dare not stop there...we must be about the business of reading the Word if we want to know what God says. God speaks to us through His Son...and you have made my point by stating that Jesus is the word of God. I know where you're trying to go based upon your previous comments, but I am guessing that is not where this post is headed. Maybe I'm wrong, though...we'll find out next Wednesday.

Mary said...

Many years ago I heard that the birth of Christ in the stable and laid in a manager was very signicicant for two reasons. 1) That particular stable was used specifically for animals used by the Jews for ceremonial sacrifices. 2) The manager was commonly used for lambs and of course Jesus being the "perfect,spotless,sinless lamb" how symbolic. Does anyone know if this is indeed factual?