This shall be a sign unto you; lying in a manger. — Luke 2:12
What a strange sign this by which to recognize the King of glory! The shepherds would not find Him robed in purple garments, like the child of a prince, but wrapped in swaddling clothes. They would not find Him in a palace, but in a stable, with a manger for His cradle. Is it not strange that the very marks and authentications of Messiah’s character and mission, by which these shepherds recognized Him when they found Him, were these tokens of poverty and humiliation? This tells us what empty things are the world’s marks of greatness. No one would expect ever to recognize earthly royalty by any such insignia as these. When Christ came, He despised all the badges of rank by which men indicate greatness, and wore the insignia of earthly poverty and meanness. Yet was He less great because He bore not the world’s stamp of honour?
True greatness is in the character, never in the circumstances. No matter about wearing a crown; make sure that you have a head worthy of wearing a crown. No matter about the purple; make sure that you have a heart worthy of the purple. No matter about a throne to sit on; make sure that your life is regal in its own intrinsic character, that men will recognize the King in you though you toil in the field or mine, or serve in the lowliest place.
These strange tokens tell us also of Christ’s sympathy with the lowliest phases of life, with the plainest and poorest of the people. None can say that Christ never came to them. If He had been born in a palace amid splendours, the common people would never have felt that He was their Saviour as they feel now that He is. Christ went down and touched life at its lowest point, that there might be none to whom His mission of love and grace should not reach.