Christmas, for the Western church, is over. (Happy Christmas to Orthodox readers!) The Christmas stories are full of signs and so I’ve been thinking about signs- the ways God makes God’s self and God’s desires known to us.
Sometimes God makes a “statement”. Pillars of fire. Parting seas. Obvious signs that we should pay attention. It is easier for us to look for the dramatic, large signs. But then we might miss the small, low key signs of God. Because God also sends small, human shaped and human sized signs.
When we read the nativity story in Luke, we might assume that the angels, the heavenly host, who appear to the shepherds were the sign. We don’t see the sky filled with armies of angels on a regular basis. That would get our attention.
But that’s not the sign. The sign is the Messiah. But not a powerful warrior king Messiah. The sign of the true Messiah is that he is a baby wrapped in bands of cloth and laying in a manger.
During Advent you may have heard the story in Isaiah chapter 7. God gives King Ahaz a sign. Ahaz is worried about impending war and the survival of his kingdom. What kind of sign would you send? What sort of sign would capture a king’s attention?
God sends a baby – just a regular baby. The writer of the Gospel of Matthew remembers this story and uses it in his telling of Jesus birth.
Two baby sized signs. How easy to miss. How easy to overlook.
We live in a world that loves the big splashy event, the grand gesture. We value a particular sort of success. Size, impact, influence, and winning all matter. And sometimes those things do matter. God can certainly be present in big events.
And yet we shouldn’t forget that God is also present in the small events. Events not seen by large crowds but by some people – a few people with eyes to see and ears to hear.
Signs, whether large or small, are to prompt us to faithful living, faithful action.
As we reflect on Christmas, and remember the Christmas stories, what we read about is faithfulness. Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi, all people being faithful. All people doing what they believe God is asking them to do. All people with eyes, ears, and hearts wide open.