Summary: In this 1st of three sermons I look at the words of the angels to the shepherds on what to look for at Christmas. The first one is to look for a baby.
November 30, 2005 The First Sign: The Baby
Luke 2:12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
There aren’t a whole lot of stories in the Bible about babies. Actually, when I did a word search, there were only four distinct stories that came up. One was with Moses - when he was put in the Nile River as a baby. A second one was when two women fought over one baby in 1 Kings chapter 3 - where Solomon offered to chop the child in half and give one half to each of the proclaimed mothers. The third one doesn’t come until many years later, as John the Baptist leapt for joy in his mother’s womb. The final and the greatest story of a baby is of course in the birth of our Savior. Babies don’t play prominent in the stories of the Bible.
Babies by their very nature don’t do a whole lot. They cry, they eat, and they go to the bathroom. As far as their usefulness, they don’t provide a whole lot of service. They are good to look at and to cuddle with. Beyond that, they are more a drain of time and effort in their few months than anything. Yet babies are precious in the sight of their parents because they still look at them as gifts of God. They know they won’t remain babies forever. They look at their baby and wonder to themselves, “I wonder what this little child will do with his life? Will he be a good athlete? Will he be famous? Will she be a strong Christian gal?” In that baby there is a tremendous source of potential and hope. Therefore, when the angels point the shepherds to a baby, we will see that -
The Birth of the Baby Brings Hope
I. The hope was clearly written in the Old Testament
Even though there aren’t a whole lot of stories about babies in the Bible, the whole history of the Old Testament focuses on the birth of a baby. Genesis 3:15 starts out with the first prediction of the Savior. God said to Satan, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” The word “offspring” denotes children and descendants. This special offspring would be the one who would crush Satan’s head. When Eve gave birth to Cain she literally said in Genesis 4:1, “I have received a man -the LORD.” She didn’t call him a child but a man, and assigned him to the LORD. This could mean that Eve hoped that right away God had answered his promise of the Savior in Cain. If only she were so fortunate. When Cain turned out to be a murderer, the hope was pushed back for generations to come. Yet it was kept alive, as God promised Abraham in Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Years later, Isaiah reiterated this promise at several points.
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 53:2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
These verses made it clear that the Savior would not come as a man in the clouds, but as a baby in the womb - through a normal birth and childhood. Therefore, it should not have been a surprise to the shepherds that night when the angels told them to go to Bethlehem and look for a baby. Scriptures told them to look and hope for a baby.
II. The hope was declared in spite of the danger
There’s a story in 2 Chronicles 22 about a woman by the name of Athaliah. In what must have been a power hungry trip she decided to kill any royal blood that would even have a possibility of taking over and dethroning her. As a result of her murderous intentions, Joash was on the chopping block next. So Joash’s aunt decided that she had best hide him as soon as possible. She hid him for six years at the temple until he was old enough to be king. The reason I mention this story was that it would have been foolish for her to expose the fact that Joash was alive ahead of time - before he could be protected. She had to keep it private. This is a big contrast to what God did on the night Jesus was born. Even though Satan and his followers wanted Jesus dead, God announced Jesus’ birth with angels to the shepherds watching their flocks - to go to Bethlehem and look for this baby. There’s a new baby King in town.