Signs and Wonders: God's Providence



In the hustle and bustle of the season, you might want to take a moment to ponder the true meaning of Christmas and furthermore what it means to you. I wanted to share with you a quick glance at the Christmas story and encourage you that even when everything seems like it can't get any crazier, God has a plan and a way through it. 

I love taking a closer look at stories in the Bible and trying to imagine what the "reality"of the situation was in the moment. When I look at the story of Jesus' birth, it seems fairly obvious to me that the circumstances were far from ideal - a baby being born in a barn, to a very young mother who was pregnant before she was married, during the chaos of a government census. Where do you even start with this mess? I mean, they were traveling, probably low on provisions. They were having an actual medical emergency, with no hospital or doctor or even a bed. She had a baby on the floor of a barn. There was no lactation consultant. No shower. No new clean gown for the baby. No pain meds.


Now, I would like to believe that Mary was better than me. I would like to believe that she was not hormonal or worrisome. I would like to believe that her faith was solid as a rock and that she just knew that this was all going to work out. But one of the things that we see over and over again is that God uses people in his story that are very flawed and very human. So maybe, Mary let things get to her a little and maybe the chaos of the moment was a little overwhelming. Maybe Mary was both full of joy and a little worried. Or a lot worried... like most new mothers. 

So then, after looking closely, I like to pan out to the bigger picture and see where God was in all of this. Because, that's what we need to know, right? Where was God in the midst of this seemingly chaotic situation? Here is where we remember all the signs and wonders.

Signs and wonders. There were so many that God gave to keep reassuring Mary and Joseph, to keep confirming and encouraging them that they were on the right track... that they weren't crazy or following some prophetic mirage. Here are a few:


Exhibit A: the angels. Now, being that this whole event was planned in advance to bring Jesus into the world according to prophecy dating all the way back to... the beginning... the angels were probably God's way of bringing out the big guns as far as signs and wonders go. Angels just don't show up all willy-nilly. In the Christmas story, there were several angelic encounters in which the angel reiterated the plan in play. The only way God could have been more direct would be to speak to them himself, and there may have been restrictions to that since Moses' hair turned white after looking at the burning bush way back in the day... better safe than sorry - send the angels. The angel appeared to Mary first, then Joseph, then the shepherds and then were also present at the manger the night of Jesus' birth. The message was clear: "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David as Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:10-12) Bam! This is called "spelling it out". The angel did not mince words and was very specific. Also, think about this, the "sign" to the shepherds was that they would find an unusual scene of a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger in the town of David (Bethlehem). Here, God shows purpose in this chaos. There would not be any confusion about which baby he was talking about as there would only be one baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger in Bethlehem. (I wonder how many mangers they checked...) When they found the baby, Mary and Joseph in the manger, they praised God along with heavenly host (angels) and told everyone that they saw about what happened! It says that Mary treasured up these things in her heart. These signs and wonders. These moments of healing and reassurance to her very soul. God knew she needed it. 


Exhibit B: the star. In addition to the shepherds, there were also some astrologers, also called Magi, who had been charting the stars in that time who had identified a new star which had been prophesied to occur at the birth of the Messiah. So they packed up their things and some gifts suited for a royal birth (gold, frankincense & myrrh) and set out to follow the star to find the newborn King. They arrived in Jerusalem and started asking around "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." The current King, Herod, heard about this, was immediately upset and consulted with all the chief priests and teachers of the law to find out where the Messiah was to be born according to prophecy. Their answer: In Bethlehem in Judea. King Herod called the Magi in and demanded to know exactly the time the star rose stating that he would like to worship him himself...but did not disclose his true purpose: so that he could search for the child, find him and kill him so that he would not usurp his authority. The Magi left and followed the star to "the place where the child was" which is now described as a house, so this must have been after Mary, Joseph and Jesus went home. Another sign and wonder to treasure for Mary - and maybe Joseph needed a little encouragement at this point as well... knee deep in diaper changes and night feedings and maybe feeling a little resentful. These Magi came and worshipped the baby. They bowed down to the baby that was born in the manger. They gave valuable gifts. These were signs that Mary and Joseph's "situation" was in fact an act of God. The Magi were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod so they returned to their country via a different route. (Matthew 2) 


Exhibit C: the baby. So, here is the elephant in the room. Let's rephrase that. Here is the Messiah in the room... in the manger... ahem. Let's get real for a moment. The very fact that Mary was pregnant before having sex with a man was a sign to her of the reality of the miracle that she was living. Can you imagine how living with that knowledge on a personal level would have both been justifying and maddening? "I have never known a man... yet I am pregnant..." "Is this real? Or do I have gas?" "Am I dying?" "Have I lost my mind?" I can only imagine how I would have handled that... not well. Every time she felt that baby kick (I mean really kick, #youknowwhatI'msayin')... as her belly grew and turned her walk into a waddle... when that baby was born and she held his little body in her arms and heard his cry...those were her signs and wonders. In spite of all the doubt... all the shame... all the lies the enemy would have been trying to feed her. God gave her signs and wonders that could only point her to the truth. 

God provides. That is the story of Christmas. God provided his Son - the exact representation of his being - to be born to the human race...as a gift. A gift that we could have never provided for ourselves. An impossibility made reality. And God was there the whole way - through all the trouble and chaos - to provide signs and wonders to remind us that he is with us when we are so apt to forget. 

I am so apt to forget. But God is so faithful to provide signs and wonders in my own life... he draws me back to the truth that he will never leave us nor forsake us and that his love for us is beyond measure. He knows that we are made of dust and he meets us where we are. One of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, speaks to my wandering heart in this verse:


O to grace how great a debtor
  Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
  Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
  Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

  Seal it for Thy courts above.

God will provide. He will lead us through this life and will bring us safely to the other side - the valleys may be dark at times, but he is with us. The scene might not look pretty, but there is purpose in it. God knows our weaknesses and will provide help as we need it. We only have to look to him and ask. I imagine Mary might have been praying for help in that manger... and God sent some shepherds to encourage her heart. I hope your heart is encouraged and that God provides everything you need today. Believe that he can make a way when it doesn't look like there is a way. If he needs to, he can even send angels to sort it out! 

Love to all -Merry Christmas!  





2 comments

  1. Nice post. I agree and I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

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  2. This year has been a tough one, and we couldn't have made it through without Jesus! So thankful for the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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