“This will be a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).
A strange sign.
A baby in a manger.
What does it mean?
Jesus came because we made such a mess of things. God said, “I will not leave you alone. I will not let you destroy yourself, each other, and the world I made.” After we had trashed everything, God said, “I’m coming down there so you’ll know once and for all how much I love you.” We didn’t pay any attention; it didn’t even make sense to us. How could God visit us? But he did—and he came to the world in a most unlikely way. He entered a virgin’s womb and came out as a baby, born in Bethlehem, a baby named Jesus, born to save us from our sins.
When he grew up, we killed him. Murdered him. Hung him on a cross. That’s the thanks we gave to God for visiting us. But we were wrong about everything. After we killed him, he came back from the dead—proving he was right all along, and we were really wrong—dead wrong about everything—and still God loved us and came from heaven to earth on the greatest rescue mission in history.
He came because we blew it so badly.
He came and we killed him.
He died and became our Savior.
Only God could have done something like that. What a story! What a Christ! C.S. Lewis said, “The son of God became a man to enable men to become the sons of God.” God has done it all. God wrapped up his Son in swaddling clothes and said to the whole world, “This is my Christmas gift to you.”
That’s the sign!
We mess things up, and God sends a baby in a manger.
This is the central truth of Christianity. God has entered human history to provide for our salvation. What we could not do, he did for us through his Son. Everything else flows from this truth. If he had not been born, he could not have died for our sins. And he would not have risen from the dead. He had to become like us to save us. There was no other way.
Christmas matters because truth matters. God did not leave us alone, but in our misery, he came to visit us one dark night in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.
Christmas is all about who we are, and who God is, and how far he will go for us.
The sign of his love is a baby wrapped in rags lying in a manger.
Lord Jesus, we are like sheep, always going astray. We need you more than we know! Come, Lord, we need you right now. Amen.
Musical bonus: Sometimes our doubts may overwhelm us. That’s when we go back to what we know to be true. Let’s listen as Anne Wilson sings I Still Believe in Christmas.