This will be a sign for you:
Seven simple words. Oh how often I have looked for a sign. Some signs I am looking for are simply street signs or a sign on a trail of which direction to follow. Other times I am wondering what my next move might be and I am asking for a sign; some indication about how to decide upon something.
In getting ready for Christmas a couple of months ago those 7 words from Luke’s gospel struck me as a sign in and of themselves. Aren’t we are all sign-seekers of sorts? Waiting for a sign. Watching for a sign. Wondering if there will be a sign.
In Luke’s gospel narrative of Jesus’ birth the angel speaks those seven simple words to the shepherds. A sign will be given to them- it will it help them know that they are headed in the right direction. It will guide them in taking the next steps. The Greek word used in Luke 2:12 can mean a sign, a miracle, an indication, a mark, a token. It was used especially to confirm, corroborate or authenticate. It is used dozens of times in the New Testament for what indicates something is connected to God and God’s purpose.
Over the years it has been meaningful to me to find something- some thing- to share with folks when they attend our Christmas Eve worship services that they can take home. A reminder. A sign. A symbol. A token. A little something to help bring the good news of God with us -Emmanual- to take home.
In the time of pondering I came upon the red cardinal pins. They are in the photo above. I had not heard before the phrase, “When a cardinal appears, an angel is near.” That was new to me. We don’t have cardinals in Colorado, but we do have red finches. Oh how I love to watch those finch come to the bird feeder in our backyard. In the past I have invited folks to “stop/pause” when seeing something red (think a variation on a red light) and give God thanks.
This year I invite you to stop/pause/ponder when you see something red- let it be a sign of God with you, God guiding you. God is with us. Our heads may know this at some level- but how shall we wrap our hearts around this good news? How do we let it in deeply that nothing can separate us from the love of God? How do we trust that God is still sending messengers and giving us signs? One red item we see at a time... baby steps. Stop signs and red finch, a red ribbon wrapped gift and the red light we thought we'd avoid.
Stop. Pause. Ponder when you see something red and remember the cardinal pin or poem. Practice looking for signs- signs of God’s love, God’s presence, God’s will for your next indicated step. Enter into the mystery of the God who chose to become flesh and dwell among us.
As I have reflected on signs- stop signs, electronic signs, store signs, street signs, signs of the times, astrological signs, open signs, closed signs.. it has come to me again and again and again that there is power in a pause, in a poem, in getting it on my radar to see how God is alive and at work in our world.
And I have thought about how we get to be signs to one another of God’s love. Last Sunday left on the table in my office was a card and a Christmas ornament. You know what was on that Christmas ornament- don’t you? Yes, a red cardinal. When I texted a thank you, I asked if they knew that this is what we were going to share as our Christmas give away for 2023. You know the answer don’t you? No. They had no idea.
When I shared with another person about the red cardinal (someone who won’t be with us in person this Christmas) she shared her own story of a red cardinal appearing it was a sign. to her and her siblings after the death of their parent. I gave her some of our Christmas give-aways to share with her sister and brother. Her brother wrote an email and shared a Cardinal Messenger poem that he has on his desk along with a cardinal. The signs and messages keep getting shared- by me, by you, by us -together.
God only knows who needs you to be a sign of God’s love in the world. God is guiding each of us in all sorts of strange and mysterious ways to be God’s love alive in this world. We are called to share this good news that God’s love is without limits. Grace abounds.
I hope you will join me this Christmas in looking for signs. To get it on your radar when you see something that is red, use it as an opportunity to stop/pause/ponder and maybe even add a prayer. Let your heart be wrapped up in God’s love. Trust that God is with us always and forever and ever and ever. Amen.