Luke 2:12 (NIV)
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Remember that flashing neon light we hope for as a sign in the sky? The deep desire in us for God to illuminate a path, make a way, and light up every step so clearly? It may be that the desire for that divine direction is triggered by fear, the thing that tends to get in the way between God and us. Fear has a way of doing that, paralyzing us, freezing us up from action and direction, let alone practical obedience. Maybe it’s a fear of taking the wrong step. Regardless, we sometimes come to believe that the way through darkness can’t become clear, or we’ll always have to walk an uncertain, shadowy path.
We sometimes believe that living a life of faith in Christ means walking into the unknown, constantly guessing what God wants for us, and “hoping” to discover it. As if God is illusive, and a life of faith never means really knowing what God would want us to do, and most of the time, just giving it our best guess.
Now, sometimes, that is the case. Living a life of faith in almighty God can often be trusting him with what we don’t know, believing he’s unfolding a plan for redemption that we don’t know, and walking through the darkness with the uncertainty of not having the details of God’s divine blueprint. Sometimes, a life of faith is taking a step, and trusting God is making the ground beneath you appear.
But that’s sometimes, not always.
It would be inaccurate and undeserving for us to paint God as an almighty wielder of power, busy keeping us in the dark and hoping we stumble our way forward into his perfect will. What we know of God, from the overarching story of creation through Scripture, is that he deeply desires for us to know him, walk with him, join him in his work in creation, and join with heaven and earth to glorify him. If that’s the case, that kind of relationship and interaction isn’t possible with a God who is far off, distant, or hard to find.
The reality is he continually reaches in with signs, instruction, and direction to help us walk in his way, alongside his work of redemption for creation. He longs for us to participate in it. And if he desires us to walk in his way, it would be cruel for him not to tell us how. Today’s brief verse reminds us that God gives them a sign; he provides clear and specific directions on how they can find Jesus. He ensures they have all the direction they need to discover their Savior. He lights up the sky with angels, tells them exactly what’s unfolding, and then clearly states specific directions on how to find him. After all, he is known by the name Emmanuel, which according to the text, means “God with us.” He’s the God who enters in to know and be known by us. And he’s been reaching in with sign and wonder, helping us find our way from darkness to light all along.
Maybe it’s just me, but listen to how the verse changes with a bit of emphasis, “You will find the baby,” this Christ Child. You will find your Savior.
It would be cruel for a God who is supposedly good to tell us a Savior is coming and light could be found in the darkness, a long-awaited Messiah was here, but then make it impossible to find him. As the God who enters in, in his great love and goodness, he’s pointing the way at every turn, telling us exactly how to find him, reassuring us that we are walking in the right direction. Later, in the New Testament account of Jesus, the disciples, and his later ascension, Jesus reassures the disciples and says, “You know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:4)
In our darkness, we try to act as if we don’t know the way. We throw up our hands and wonder if God will reveal the way forward when he already has. He has shown us the way to a relationship with the Father. He’s given us direction for living in his way. He’s given us the light of his Word, as Scripture itself says is a “light to our path” (Psalm 119:105). If it’s not enough that God, who created the universe and set all things into motion, sent his Son into the world to rescue and redeem us, he also ensured that we could know and discover that Savior. The darkness of uncertainty is made clear by the light of his leading.
As people of a Wesleyan way, we believe this to be particularly true in prevenient grace. Prevenient grace believes that God has been going before us, even before we’re aware of him, wooing us to himself, reaching in by the work of the Spirit with love and grace, calling us to life in him. God’s not trying to trick us, like a game of hide and seek, hoping we find our way to him by luck and sheer determination. His greatest hope is that we discover every bit of life and possibility found in him.
To that end, he gives us the grace of opportunity, instruction, and sign more often than we care to admit.
We throw up our hands and wonder what we’re supposed to do and how to find our way. The darkness of doubt blinds us to the wonder of his in-breaking reality that he is lighting the way. And listen y’all, even if the signs seem unclear to you, they aren’t really. Like Joseph, the way forward is the way of righteousness, right living in him until he gives us a more specific direction.
Be reassured of this. As an act of incredible, outrageous, life-giving light, God entered in and pointed the way to finding him—not just at Christmas—but in life with him every day too.
How good and gracious you are, almighty God, to light the way, to ensure a sign, and to not be satisfied with our stumbling through faith but working to make our way as successful as possible. We rejoice in the kind of love that intentionally breaks in on darkness and reveals a way to life in you. We especially rejoice, as Christmas so quickly approaches, that you have made a way through the gift of this Christ child. As we find our way to his light this Christmas, remind us in the deepest places that he is the way to life in you. When we aren’t sure of our next steps and have to live by faith, remind us that the way forward is a life of faithful obedience to the everyday places of living in and for you. Give us the confidence to believe that you are holding up the ground beneath us even when we can’t see it. And until you come again, help us look to your light to lead us in every step. Amen.
Where in your life have you thrown up your hands, frustrated that God isn’t giving you a way forward? Is it possible that God is illuminating the way, but you’ve focused on the shadows of the unknown instead of the light of what is known in him? If you’re waiting for directions and feel like you’re not getting them, is it possible that “you know the way,” and it is the simple steps of daily, righteous living in the way of Jesus? It may not be as flashy as an angelic presence, but it’s just as powerful.
For the Awakening,