“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger,” says the Angel in Luke 2:12

In studying this familiar passage, one of the things that stood out to me this time is this offer of a sign. Remember, the one offering this sign is an actual real-life angel, a warrior of light. It is a being who lives in such a close proximity to Almighty God that God’s own glory has sorta rubbed off onto. This is a being that, if we were to see today, we would be tempted to worship or cower in front of. In fact, every human that encounters beings like this throughout scripture has the same reaching… utter fear! And here, this angel decides that these shepherds need another sign. I mean, isn’t the appearance of one angel enough? Not only that, but as soon as this solitary angel says these words offering a sign, he is joined by a multitude of equally frightening heavenly beings.

In my mind, this seems like it is enough of a sign for me. If I saw one angel, I am pretty sure that after changing my pants, I would realize that I had been given enough evidence. If I saw an entire heavenly host singing, I would never ask for a sign again. Nonetheless, the angel offers a sign. Why did the angel offer a sign? Why did the angel think that these shepherds needed more proof?

Well, apparently God didn’t want our faith to be based solely on an ecstatic spiritual experience, even one involving an angel. The truth is that angels are really cool, but angels aren’t what our faith is built on. Angels play a role throughout the Bible, but there isn’t a single-core theological belief in all of Christian doctrine that is solely based on the testimony of an angel. The same could be said about dreams or visions. The good news that this is a reminder of is that our faith is not just based on some spiritual experience, it is based on events that actually happened. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:14 that “if Christ has not been raised [in other words, if an actual verifiable event hadn’t happened], our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

So, as we approach Christmas, let’s approach it with confidence even when we don’t have wild spiritual experiences. Yes, those shepherds got pretty lucky. They saw something that we couldn’t even replicate in our dreams! But even that was just supposed to point them to what was real. There really was an actual baby, wrapped in actual cloth, and lying in an actual manger. You can’t spiritualize it or explain it away. It happened so let’s put all of our hopes and fears of all the years on that child tonight.

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor

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