Watch for the Signs
Antique stores and yards sales, monuments and history, and one very important missed road sign are what comes to mind when I recall a family vacation we took when I was ten years old. My aunt and grandmother came with us and we visited everything from Williamsburg, Virginia to the White House to Niagara Falls. We meandered our way into Canada snaking through the quiet country towns and zipping past thriving cities on the interstate.
The thing is when you are a kid, you don’t really pay too much attention to anything besides your stomach, your bladder, and winning the battle for control of the tape deck. I could sing every word right along with Debbie Gibson and Tiffany which annoyed my brother to no end. I sang even louder knowing the distress I was bringing to his ears.
However, suddenly you perk up when you see blue lights and your dad gets pulled over. No, my dad was not speeding, but he missed a sign saying it was illegal to drive through the tunnel with a propane tank, so ticket in hand; he set out again watching more carefully for the signs. In his effort to drive around tunnels and avoid another ticket, somehow our Tennessee plates ended up smack dab in the middle of downtown Harlem.
This is where it gets memorable for my ten-year-old self. At first, I could not tell what all the excitement was about. I thought we were about to visit another memorial or museum, but when I took a look out the window, I could tell this was something different.
“Gary, they are making another lane beside us.” My mom warns and suddenly there are four lanes where they used to be three.
The noise and constant honking drowned out Tiffany's, "I think we are alone" and the sounds of the city were ringing through our Suburban.
My mom, my aunt Leasha, and Mamaw are squawking birds warning everyone there is danger ahead. One man was hanging his torso outside his window pointing his finger vigorously at us and motioning us ahead. I am not sure if he was trying to help us or if was cussing us out, either way, our windows remained up and our doors locked. My brother was counting how many times we received the bird. Up until that moment, I was always confused about how your middle finger was considered a derogatory thing, but it made sense for me after that.
It was all very amusing until my sweet easygoing dad grouched, “Everyone just be quiet!” Then I began to get nervous because even Daddy seemed on edge.
We missed the sign and ended up somewhere we didn’t want to be. Missing the sign, put us in a less than desirable situation.
I can’t help think about this Christmas season and how some of us might be like my family on vacation looking out the window and wondering, where are we? How did we end up here? This is not where we hoped to be. There is too much noise and where are the peace and quiet I crave?
Let’s think back to the first Christmas and the star of Bethlehem. I wonder what people thought about the star? Did they ignore the star? How many people saw the precious sign of the Lord and missed it? On the other hand, were there people who followed it and their stories are not recorded in the bible? Let’s consider three situations and see if you find yourself represented in their stories.
When the wise men came looking for the new King just born, all Herod could think about was protecting his king status. He asked the wise men to come and let him know where the King was so he could go and worship him too. When all he really wanted to do was, eliminate Jesus as a threat. Herod missed the true meaning of the sign. What might have happened if he had followed the sign himself? What if he wasn’t so wrapped up in protecting his own personal kingdom? He might have come face to face with the face of God. Maybe his heart would have changed and the course of his life altered.
What about you? Do you put off thinking about what happened in Bethlehem so long ago? Do you remember the gift God bestowed on us, or are you protecting the Christmas kingdom you have built? Sometimes I think we can be like King Herod, out to destroy anyone or anything that gets in the way of our right here right now happiness. Herod missed the significance of the star of Bethlehem. Jesus wasn't a threat to Herod's kingdom he was the key to his everlasting life. Herod missed meeting Jesus.
No vacancy, no room! What if the Innkeeper had made room for a pregnant lady and her newborn? What if he decided to give up his own room for the night? He might have been able to witness the shepherds and their excited faces as they found Mary and Joseph and shared how the angels visited them in the field. He might have met the King, but he missed it. I know there have been times in my life when I’ve been just like the innkeeper, too wrapped up in my own comforts to make room for King Jesus. Are you missing opportunities this Christmas season to bless others or are you too busy? Are you making room for him in your life? The Innkeeper missed Jesus.
The Wise Men
We know the wise men interpreted the star as a sign the king of the Jews was born. They dropped their regular routine, I’m not sure what wise men did during that time period other than reading, but I’m sure it felt important to them. Even so, they dropped their precious books and studying and they followed the sign. They met Jesus.
What a gift we received when our almighty God saw fit to leave paradise and humbled himself to save us. This precious gift deserves some reflection and appreciation.
Where do you find yourself this season? Like Herod, protecting your way of life at all costs to everyone around you. Or maybe you are like the Innkeeper, keeping your own comforts first? Maybe you are like the wise men and have made adjustments to your schedule moving some of your life to the side this Christmas to seek out Jesus. Finding some quiet moments to spend thinking about the best gift ever given to the Earth seems like the least we can do in light of his generosity to us.
God provided a star for the people to follow to Jesus and the wise men were indeed wise to follow it, but I believe he still gives us signs today to help us make our way to him. Look for the signs that are pointing you to hope, peace, love, forgiveness, and second chances, those just might be your very own star of Bethlehem this Christmas. Find Jesus, he is here among us.
Reflection: Here are a few verses to help you slow down and think about the best gift ever given.
Past blog post about Christmas...