And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger (Luke 2:12 NLT).
The angels told the shepherds — and as we overhear them, they tell us as well — that this is how we know we have found the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, and King of Israel: you will find a baby, wrapped up in strips of cloth, and sleeping in the place where livestock is fed.
Not exactly the place back then where people might go to take a selfie. Certainly not the place you'd expect to find a king. Definitely not the place people expected the Son of God to lay his head.
The setting too simple.
The bed too dirty.
The city too small.
The situation too desperate.
The people involved too common.
The couple too unmarried.
The baby, before the arrival of the shepherds, too unwelcomed.
God chose not to come to us in a book or a philosophy or a royal procession. God chose not to come to us as a conquering warrior or a celebrated prince. The sign of God's dwelling among us was a baby, snugly wrapped in strips of cloth like any baby of his time, placed in a manger, and found in the backwater of the long-forgotten town of Nazareth. His birth wasn't celebrated by the paparazzi, his birth didn't make the evening news, and the whole event didn't appear on Facebook Live or Snapchat or Twitter or Instagram. Few, if any other than Mary and Joseph, would have known of his birth except for shepherds and foreigners.
Why? Why so humble of circumstances? Why such an out-of-the-way place? Why in such simple surroundings? Why in a time when Israel was so subjugated and desperate?
In a year of war, genocide, refugee crises, and displaced millions of people, we are reminded that God comes to us in a way that all people can find him. While the religious intellectuals of his people could discern the place of his birth (Matthew 2:1-6), it was foreigners from another religion who worshiped him (Matthew 2:1-2, 10-12). While political powers feared and sought to kill him (Matthew 2:16-18), lowly shepherds with the smell of their sheep and of the hillside welcomed him (Luke 2:8-20).
The story of Jesus' birth puts God among us, as one of us — even as one of the least of us. And God did it this way for one simple reason: the Holy One of Israel came to us where any of us could find him. We don't have to be an intellectual. We don't have to be a religious scholar. We don't have to be rich or powerful. We just need to seek after him and choose to believe that he loves us so much that he came in search of us when we could not, or would not, make the journey to find him.
Even now with all our travel, shopping, wrapping paper, parties, bills, and stress of the season, we can still find him. Not only can we find him, but we can know it's him. We can recognize the signs. He's the one wrapped in strips of cloth, sleeping in the place where animals feed, surrounded by shepherds telling amazing stories about angels, and welcomed by parents who adore him. This is God in human flesh. This is the Almighty lying wrapped in strips of cloth. This is the Holy One of Israel made helpless. This is Immanuel. This is God, choosing to be one of us.
Now, if we choose to see the sign and draw near, we can meet Immanuel — God with us as one of us to show us the way home.
This is part of a four-part Christmas series entitled: "Give Me Jesus":
Each has a YouTube video attached to add to their impact and blessing.