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December 6, 2020

Sermon Luke 2:12  . . “Silent witness:  a Baby”

“Silent witness:  a Baby”

Luke 2:12

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Born in Galveston, Texas in July of 1957, Bill Engvall is a famous American actor and comedian.  Though he originally hoped to earn a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern University and become a teacher, things didn’t work out quite the way he planned.  For after he worked at a series of odd jobs, (including as a tour guide at a local cavern), he discovered he had a gift for comedy.  In fact, not only did he eventually host a handful of TV shows, he was once named “Best Male Stand Up” at the American Comedy Awards.  Since then, he’s gone on to release a number of albums, and appear with Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

But of all the humor for which he’s known to this day, his most famous line is, “Here’s your sign.”

You know how it goes.  He said, it’s like before he and his wife moved.  Their house was full of boxes and there was a U-Haul truck parked in their driveway.  That’s when a neighbor came over and said, “Hey, you moving?”  “Nope,” he said.  “We just pack our stuff up one or twice a week to see how many boxes it takes.”  Here’s your sign.

Or there was the time he was learning to drive an 18-wheeler and, wouldn't you know it, he misjudged the height of a bridge and got stuck.  He called for help.  When a local cop showed up to take the report, he asked, “So, is your truck stuck?”  Bill looked at him, looked at the truck, then looked back at him, and said, “No, I’m delivering a bridge.”  Here’s your sign.

The Bible talks quite a lot about signs too.  One day, when Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, they demanded a sign.  So He said, “No sign will be given except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:4).  Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Jews demand signs, and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified” (I Corinthians 1:22).  And in the book of Luke, Jesus said in the last days, “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars” (Luke 21:25).

And in our text for today, we hear about a sign once more, a sign that Christ had come.

Listen to the words of Luke chapter 2:  “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you:  you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:8-12).

“A sign,” he said.  “This will be a sign:  you will find a baby.”

Suppose, for a moment, that you’ve just come from some other country all the way to America.  You know our chief executive is called the president, but you don’t know who he is or where he lives.  You’d like to meet him if you could, but you don’t know where to find him.  So you ask for help.

And when you ask, you hear something like this--if you want to meet the president, you’ll have to go to Washington, and look for a building called, the “White House.”  And if he’s not there, then look for a plane called, “Air Force One,” or listen for a band playing, “Hail to the Chief.”  Then when you see a man surrounded by police officers and Secret Service, cameras and reporters, that’s your sign.  He’s the president.

And what sign did God choose to signify His coming to earth?  As the angel said:  “This will be a sign:  you will find a baby.”

It’s strange if you think about it.  You could page through all of the Bible, but you won’t find many stories about babies.

There’s Moses.  Not long after he was born, his mother, Jochebed, laid him in a basket covered with pitch, then scooted him down the Nile into Pharaoh’s daughter’s waiting arms.  And just as soon as she picked him up and held him in her arms, she called him, “Moses,” because, she said, she “drew him out of the water.”

In the book of I Kings, when one child lived and another child died, two women both said the one that lived was hers.  Then, when the case came before Solomon, he said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive,’ and the other says, ‘No, your son is dead.’  Bring me a sword,” he said.  Then he said, “Divide the living child in two and give half to the one and half to the other.”  That’s when the real mother burst out and cried, “Give him to her, but please let him live.”

And in the book of Luke, when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, greeted her cousin, Elizabeth, her son John leaped for joy even in his mother’s womb.

Even more, babies, by nature, don’t do much.  They cry, they eat, and they sleep.  They’re fun to watch and to cuddle with.

But as we look at them and hold them, we can’t help but wonder what they’ll someday become.  What will they do with their life?

So it strikes us as strange and causes us to wonder--why would this, a Baby, of all things, be a sign?

Remember for a moment, how it all must have been.  There they were, a band of shepherds, minding their own business, keeping watch over their flock by night.  When, all of a sudden, as the Bible says, an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.

And what did the angel say?  He said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people.  For unto you is born, this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you…”

Let me stop there for just a moment.  Now if you hadn’t already heard this story or didn’t know any better, you’d probably expect the angel to say, “This shall be the sign--the moon will turn to blood and the stars will fall from the sky.”

But that’s not what he said at all.  Instead he said, “This shall be the sign:  you shall find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.”

“A baby,” he said.  Not a judge, not a king, not a feared, omnipotent ruler over heaven and earth.  A baby--a sweet, innocent, humble, cooing, little baby.

Who would have thought that God would come as a Baby?

If it were up to us, we’d say He should come with the blast of a trumpet or on a whirlwind or a thundering lightning bolt.  Kings should bow.  Men should cower before Him.

But there in that little town called Bethlehem, we find the wonder, the beauty, and the mystery of Christmas, that He was born, just as we were born--small, humble, weak, vulnerable, defenseless.

Is it any surprise?  It shouldn’t be.  That is, after all, what the writer to the Hebrews once said:  “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  And John wrote in his gospel:  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory...full of grace and truth.”

And that is the central truth of Christianity.  God has entered human history to accomplish our salvation.  What we could not do, He did for us through His Son.

Even more, if He had not been born, He could not have died for our sins.  And had He not died for our sins, He could not have risen from the dead.

To save us, He had to become like us.  There was no other way.

As the angel said:  “This shall be a sign unto you, you will find a baby.”

In the words of a poem:  “Though Jesus has always existed in heaven, God didn’t send Him at age 30 or 20 or 16 or 7.  Jesus didn’t come full-grown and in charge; He came as a baby and one not so large.  Was He six pounds or seven or eight pounds or nine?  We don’t know what He weighed--any weight would be fine.  It’s the fact that He came, that He crossed the line, from heaven to earth through normal childbirth.  He came, that’s what matters, that’s what matters the most.  He came down from heaven adored by the angel host.”

In the late 1800s, author Bret Harte wrote a short story called, The Luck of Roaring Camp.  It’s a story about a rough mining town, a filthy place inhabited by men, all except for one, lone woman whose name was Cherokee Sal.  And since the camp suffered from a long string of bad luck, and only one woman happened to live there, that poor little town had little hope of any future at all.

But as the story goes, Cherokee Sal became pregnant, then died giving birth to a child, a little boy.  So the men of the men of the town took it upon themselves to care for that child.  They named him, “Thomas Luck,” then laid him in a crude wooden box, and wrapped him up in some old cloth rags.

But the more they looked at him, the more they thought he was just too beautiful for an old box and rags, so they sent men out, some eighty miles, to buy a rosewood cradle.  When they brought it back, they put that baby in that rosewood cradle all wrapped up in dirty rags.

But those rags didn’t look so good either lying in that beautiful rosewood cradle, so they sent another team of men off to buy some silk and lace blankets.  And they put that baby, wrapped in silk and lace blankets, in that rosewood cradle.  And it looked pretty good, until someone noticed that, where the cradle sat, the floor was filthy.  So that hardened group of men got down on their hands and knees and scrubbed the floor until it was clean.

Of course, the walls and ceiling looked pretty rough too, so they got out their ladders and started scrubbing the walls and ceiling.  Little by little, things were starting to look a little better in Roaring Camp.

But the baby slept a lot and all their late-night drinking and fighting were keeping him awake, so before long, there weren’t so many saloon fights anymore.

And as he began to grow, some men brought him to the entrance of the mine.  And when the miners came out of the mine, they liked to see him.  He brightened their day.

Then someone noticed what a dirty place it was at the entrance to the mine, so they planted a garden nearby.  And when the men came up out of the mine, they brought him shiny stones that would make him smile.  But when they handed him the stones, they saw their hands were a filthy black.  So pretty soon, the general store ran out of soap and shaving cream and cologne.

The story is summed up by the words, “Everything in Roaring Camp changed because of that one little boy.”

And so all of earth is changed because of that One little Baby.

 

We thank You, dear Father, for the wonder and beauty of this Child once born in Bethlehem.  Grant that we too may kneel with shepherds, angels, and wise men, and honor Him as Christ our King.  This we ask in His name.  Amen

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