I used to kid with people up north and out west that the south had two seasons: summer and almost summer again. As I sit and write this on a December 1st afternoon, it is sunny outside and the current temperature in Lancaster is 68 degrees. A little warmer than usual, but even most of the cold days don’t get to or below freezing for long. In Wyoming, they had fours seasons: spring, early winter, God in Heaven When Will I Feel My Feet Again, and late winter. It is not uncommon to have snow on Mother’s Day in many places of the Mountain West and I personally have seen church closed on the first week of May for a freak snowstorm.
I mention those things because there were always signs of the weather changing whether it was in the south or out west. You could watch the animals and how they were acting, feel the moisture in the air (or lack of it), feel the change in the temperature of the wind. The signs were there for those who were looking for them and if you paid attention, it was easy to see the changes before they got there.
When we look at the story of Jesus, even the parts in the beginning, there were signs of things to come. Look closely at the story in Luke chapter one and two. There are five people and an angel that offer prophetic statements about the life of Jesus to come and four of the statements happen before the child is even born. They make statements like Mary talking about how God has “scattered the proud and haughty ones, brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands” simply by bringing this child into the world. Zechariah says, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.” My favorite of these stories, the one about Simeon in chapter two says, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
All these statements have one thing in common: they are all statements about the direction of the Christ story to come. These are signs of what kind of person Jesus will be in the story to come and the way that people writing the story saw Jesus. Also, there are two stories told (Matthew and Luke) and they are not told the same way. Often, we mix them together and make one big story of them but that wasn’t the intent. That brings me to a question: what do you see in the story when you read it? When you take them one at a time, look at what is said without trying to rely on all the things that you have always heard, what does the story say to you? You may be surprised. I hope you are. Christmas should be a time of surprises. After all, isn’t that what a gift truly is, something given to you that you don’t really expect?