Today's Reading: Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)
What is the significance of a sign? One dictionary defines the word “sign” as follows: “an object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else.” Ok… that makes sense; an occurrence that gives you a “heads up” concerning another occurrence.
Signs are helpful, and in many instances, lifesaving! If the bridge ahead has collapsed, a sign gives you warning. Signs come in all shapes and colors: Stop, Yield, Curve, Bump, Dip, Caution… and the list goes on. We depend on signs to get us safely from one destination to another. Navigation systems on our phones and in vehicles have changed the way we navigate, but signs are still helpful. There was a time, and not so long ago, when we unfolded maps and traced our way by following little lines and highway numbers. A road map told us everything we needed to know except how to fold it up again. But we traveled many miles with the aid of those little maps.
When I was 16 years old, I worked for a fertilizer company in the Delta. I drove trucks filled with fertilizer to airstrips and hopped the wings of crop-dusting airplanes from daylight until dark. But one day my boss told me to drive to a destination two hours away to pick up a load of special material. I had never driven that far by myself! I learned that day the importance of paying attention to signs, which I had never done before.
Some signs are ominous. When one is experiencing unexplained weight loss, it may mean there is disease present. When an organization can’t meet payroll or pay its expenses, it may be unhealthy. We must pay attention to signs or the consequences can be devastating.
God had warned His people through the prophets to turn from their rebellious ways. The prophets performed miracles to authenticate God’s message, but neither Judah nor Israel would listen. They missed the signs and paid dearly for their disobedience. But He would send another sign following their ruin and captivity. Almost 600 years following Jerusalem’s destruction by the Babylonians, a sign would arrive, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy… Immanuel, God with us, would be born of a virgin. God HIMSELF would come down to earth to pay the price for their sins. This event would assure His people that He had not abandoned them but had kept His promises. But once again, they missed the sign.
He performed many wonders to authenticate His message of love from God, but they rejected both the message and the messenger and bullied the Romans into hanging Him on a cross. There was another sign that day, scripted by the gentile governor in three languages so that all would understand. It said, “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.” In their disgust, they missed that sign too, demanding it be torn down.
This Christmas season is a sign, a reminder to all: God is with us. Around 2,700 years ago, Isaiah prophesied Jesus’ birth. When it occurred, the angels declared to shepherds outside of Bethlehem that it was “GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY FOR ALL PEOPLE!” Don’t miss the signs this Christmas and the hope, peace, joy, and love that only Jesus brings.