The Christmas story has an odd twist. It was expected that when Messiah came, the resurrection of the dead would take place, the earth would be transformed, and the false gods would be put down.
The Son of David did come, and the resurrection from the dead did happen, but not in the way anyone expected it to happen.
A shadow of the cross looms large across Jesus’ entire story. Luke tells us three times (Luke 2:7, 2:12, and 2:16) that Mary laid the baby in a manger, a feed trough:
This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12)
Unto You is Born This Day
A sign is something that points beyond itself to something else. It can be a clue, as in a detective story, and it may also be a miracle. The fact that this sign was given to shepherds gives us a glimpse into the nature of Jesus’ story. Shepherds were a part of the very lowest social class. They were ritually unclean, and just unclean in general; they probably smelled terrible.
There’s a hint here as to the expansive nature of the message itself. In giving their message to shepherds, the angels were showing that the joy of Jesus’ birth applies to everyone. It’s common for people to take joy in money and possessions, power and prestige—the shepherds had none of that, and yet the angel told them,
Today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)
When Joseph and Mary presented the infant Jesus at the Temple, the story began to look even more strange. A “righteous and devout” (Luke 2:25) man named Simeon had some hard words for Mary:
Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:34-35)
Somehow, by means of an anointing of the Spirit, Simeon knew that the baby he met in the Temple that day would grow up to be controversial, misunderstood, and opposed by many. He understood that Jesus would expose the would-be rulers, the would-be priests, the fake king Herod, and even the Roman overlords. He knew that all this would cause Mary pain which she would be unable to understand. Simeon hints to us that the Messiah would save the world by means of a looming cross.
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The preceding was adapted by Rachel Motte from a sermon Dr. Sloan delivered at Kingsland Baptist Church on December 15, 2013. A video of his original remarks may be viewed here.