In the middle of Luke’s telling of the Nativity story, the angels say to the shepherds, “This will be a sign for you; you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” It’s a rare event in the Bible when God’s messengers make things so abundantly clear. This will be a sign for you, you will find a child … Amid all the prophecies and news of God’s mysterious presence in the world, this moment offers clarity and what amounts to an actual road map to find God, and this time it will be in a stable under the watch of an ordinary couple and, perhaps, some livestock.
This will be a sign for you. The Christmas story is still a sign for us. The story of the little baby born into the world to reveal the extent of God’s love is still a sign for us. And I also believe there are more signs, signs all the time of God’s love and grace and mercy. Though, if I’m honest, I sure would like someone to come along and make it clear to me. This will be a sign. This and this and this. It would be nice on those days when I’m wandering off in some field, minding my own sheep or business. Because I can forget or start to doubt that God is still showing up. I find myself wondering where and how to find God in the world.
The spare lines of a short poem called “Xmas Day” by G.K. Chesterton speak to my predicament and (as poetry often does) make me feel less alone, or like I’m not the only one coming up short.
Good news: but if you ask me what it is, I know not;
It is a track of feet in the snow,
It is a lantern showing a path,
It is a door set open.
Good news, yes. And what is the good news, I’m not sure. God showed up embodied in a few pounds of humanity in a wayside barn a long time ago. And God is still showing up—collapsing God’s immensity into small, little moments and glimmers in everyday places and conversations. A track of feet, a light left on, a door open and welcoming. And in an infinite number of other occasions and bodies and words and silences.
The end of Christmas, the end of the twelve days, arrives this weekend. But the “end” of Christmas, the purpose of this season and this story is to remind us that God came into the world and God continues to arrive in our lives. There are signs of God’s endless and boundless love everywhere we turn: in ancient stories about angels and shepherds and in this very day as you and I go about our lives. This will be a sign for you, you will find … I wonder how many ways that message unfolds? What will be the sign for you or for me? Where and how will we find God today? What small glimpses of good news are we being offered?