Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday's Meditation: Flash, Dazzle, and the Quiet Sign

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 “Glory to God in the highest,
   and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2: 8-15)
Some jobs involve tedious repetition, day-after-day. In the case of these shepherds the repetition was night-after-night. I’ve never been a shepherd, but  I imagine the night shift could get pretty boring. The same co-workers, the same sheep, the same fields.
Luke’s gospel describes the one night where the sameness was interrupted. First an angel appears out of nowhere. Then the shepherds are surrounded by the shining glory of God, much like what Moses experienced. Finally, the very fabric of the sky is pulled back like a curtain, revealing a host of other-worldly creatures in full-on praise and worship. That’s not a normal night.
Yet in this account is an amazing contradiction that captures our attention and invites us to consider the value system of Heaven. In the midst of the supernatural announcement we find this incongruous sentence: “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby . . . ”
What? Angelic visitation is not the sign of God’s work? Nor is the visible, shining presence of God? The sky-rending heavenly choir is not sign enough? Well actually, no. The implied lesson of the annunciation is that God’s signs are sometimes so natural we might well miss the true wonder of his work.
There has never been a greater sign of God’s goodness, grace, creativity or power than the night he became human. But we humans crave the spectacular. We think the “sign” must be eye-poppingly supernatural. We are impressed by flash and dazzle while frequently the work of God is going on quietly, naturally, right before our eyes.
This week, we will see the sign, or look for the flash?


  1. I always thought that the "sign of the baby... lying in a manger" was given was so that the shepherd would know WHICH baby the angels were talking about. There probably wouldn't be too many babies lying in a manger. The razzle-dazzle in the sky was to get their attention at the moment, and then they would go find the humble setting of the manger. Gary

  2. Thanks, Gary: I like the way you think--practical, down-to-earth, and real. They can't very well go off looking for a child just anywhere, can they? Merry Christmas!

  3. Yes, practical I am. And that really was some razzle-dazzle, especially the way you described it. I think this the first time I've ever commented on the internet like this.