Text: Luke 2:12 – “This will be a sign to you”
There is something surprising about this: the humble circumstances of the Christ-child in the manger confirmed the angel’s announcement of a Saviour. We would expect it to be the other way round!
1. The angels who gave the sign
Angels appear from time to time within the pages of Scripture. We read of their activities in connection with creation, the giving of the Law, the birth of the Saviour, the temptation in the wilderness, the agony in Gethsemane, the resurrection, ascension and final judgement. Angels feature strongly in Luke’s writings, especially in the first two chapters of his Gospel. They show the breaking-in of the divine into the sphere of human affairs.
2. The shepherds to whom the sign was given
Angels heralded the new-born Saviour, but were sent not to the high and mighty, but to humble shepherds. It is not recorded that the shepherds asked for a sign; but they were given one anyway. ‘Sometimes it is sinful for us to require as evidence what God’s tenderness may nevertheless see fit as an aid to faith.’ (Spurgeon) And the shepherds became a sign to Mary, the only testimony she had at the time that her baby was indeed the one who had been promised.
We know that throughout his life (and beyond, Ac 1:6), Jesus’ disciples clung to the notion of an earthly kingdom, with the overthrow of Rome’s tyranny by the Messiah. But the birth of Jesus was consistent with the rest of his life and ministry. Accordingly, the message to the shepherds was one of simplicity and humility. There was no temporal might, no pomp and ceremony, no superstition, no worldly philosophy there.
3. The Saviour who was thus signified
A humble birth proclaimed by mighty angels – this mirrors the incarnation itself, with its meeting of divine majesty and human meekness.
The Scripture fulfilled, Isa 53:2, ‘He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.’
The humility of his earthly existence, Lk 9:58, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’
An example to us all in life and worship, 2 Cor 8:9, ‘You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.’