Christmas Advent, Faith, Uncategorized
Comments 5

{Advent} Looking for a Sign

'in the snow' photo (c) 2008, Jon Oakley - license:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: the virgin will be with child

and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

Are you a skeptic? Do you scoff at the “next big thing” that everyone’s talking about? Do you research stories that circulate on the internet to confirm whether they are true or only urban myth? Do you eat vegetables instead of spending money on vitamins, pass by money-making schemes because they are too good to be true, and prefer to study the fine print before signing anything?

I’m glad I’m not alone.

As a skeptic, I’m also a doubter. And I know the arguments against the validity of scripture and the veracity of the Jesus story. I’m such a doubter that I even doubt my own words of testimony.

But as much as I doubt, I see the indisputable signs of the reality of a God everywhere.

I see it in the architecture of a flower, in the art of a sunset or the glimmer of refracted light on a rainbow trout. I see it in the kindness of strangers and the enduring mother’s love.

I hear it in birdsong and violins and babies’ laughter.

I’ve heard it in a child’s prayer and the singing of shoeless African farmers.

I feel it in my spirit, an indescribable knowing that inspires and comforts and gives me confidence.

There’s one thing, and only one, that I am totally sold-out on. It goes against my skeptic grain and logical brain, but I am convinced to the marrow of one true thing: Jesus Christ is God’s Son who lived, died, was buried, rose again and is coming again according to the truth of God’s word.

It is palpable hope. It is undeniable truth. It’s foot to floor, day to day purpose, it’s the one thing I’ve hung my hat on that hasn’t failed.

Church has failed me; Christian schools, friends and family, my spouse and kids have failed me. I have failed myself many times. But God’s word has been proven true over and over and this skeptic is convinced, converted, cornered into faith.

When Jesus engaged the people of his day, teaching and ministering, he was asked repeatedly to produce a “sign” that would prove he was who he claimed to be.

So he did.

Over and again he touched the fevered, the demon-possessed, the lame, the infirm. He healed the broken-hearted, forgave the prostitutes, reinstated the conniving, greedy tax-collectors, challenged the teachers and engaged the common pauper. He taught from the holy scriptures like “one with authority” and never once gave up on his faith and confidence in God the Father.

Jesus’ entire life was a sign, a series of signs, that pointed to the truth and to prophecy fulfilled as he lived and moved and spoke.

Prophecy is defined as a “prediction of the future, made under divine inspiration.”

Prophecy is the bread of faith, the crumbs that keep the faithful following through the centuries. The Hebrew teachers studied the prophets’ writings, memorized great stretches of them, yet when the very fulfillment of those predictions stood before them and fed thousands from a few loaves of bread, or healed lepers or blind beggars and then forgave their sins, it wasn’t enough.

The passage in Isaiah 7 holds a sign within a sign. It’s often missed, but it’s all in the name, Immanuel.

First, we are told that the Lord himself will give us a sign: the virgin birth, the male heir (for the savior was predicted to be a king), and he would be called Immanuel.

Immanuel is the sign within the sign. The meaning of this name is “God with us”.

The details surrounding his birth, life, death and resurrection were given as signals pointing to the true sign of God himself come to be with his creation. We’re to focus our lenses not on the details of the town Bethlehem, the virgin mother or the swaddling clothes, but rather the person of God being with people once again.

There was a time, long ago, when God himself Immanueled (if you will) with his creation. He wandered the garden paths with Adam and Eve, instructed and warned Cain, walked with Enoch and drafted boat plans with Noah {Genesis 1-5}. Immanuel, God with us, was what God intended when he spoke creation into being, but sin ripped through the fellowship between God and his beloved creation {Ephesians 4:18}, offended his holiness {Ezekiel 36:23} and demanded a ransom {Hebrew 9:15}. The very payment for the ransom was paid with the presence of God, in the person of Jesus, Immanuel.

So, in saying the signs weren’t convincing enough, the unbelievers of his day were simply turning away from Immanuel, the opportunity to be in the presence of the God they claimed to worship. God himself was not alluring enough, convincing enough, great enough to get their attention.

Do we say the same thing? Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, the person of God who would indwell, guide, comfort, strengthen and empower everyone who believed in Jesus as savior, yet we are told we can “grieve” the Holy Spirit {Ephesians 4:30} and “quench” his fire{1 Thessalonians 5:19}. We have Immanuel within us yet when we live in unbelief, discouragement, anger and strife, we are saying, “Immanuel, you aren’t enough.”

He is called Immanuel, God with us. What severs your communion with him? What separates you and keeps you isolated from him? He wants to be with us. Will we let him this Christmas?





  1. Danelle says

    Oh Alyssa,
    Just came home from small group and we read in Isaiah 30:18 “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are those who wait for Him.”
    He longs. For us. We wait. For Him.
    Awesome that I came here to read your words tonight.
    Blessings to you sweet friend.

  2. That was a sound lesson in theology. Well done. A good mixture of facts pushed along with sweet God given emotion. Really, really good.

    I hope all is getting better for you and your family this Christmas season. I knew God would show up even stronger in your writing. Indeed He has. Powerful stuff.

  3. It’s like I was reading about myself in the first few paragraphs. Yes, a doubter. We used to live by some hot spings. I used to insist that the springs were not real and simply something made up to attrack tourists. A doubter.

    Strong ending, and good piece.

  4. As someone who likes to be logical, frugal, and in control, I hear you. And yet, I also hear you when you say that to the core of your being you do not doubt the Risen Lord. Amen to that! I’m so thankful for the gift of faith and that He grows it deeply in our hearts.

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