“Antiques Roadshow” on PBS provides many examples of “hidden treasures,” items most of us would overlook until someone informs us of their value.
A man brought in a pocket watch that had belonged to his great-grandfather. While it was a nice-looking watch, the man prized it for its sentimental value.
The appraiser then surprised the man by telling him of all the unique features of that particular watch. He asked the man, “Have you ever had an appraisal done of the watch?”
The man replied, “A guy told me it was worth about $6,000.” The appraiser said, “That was a bit low.”
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“For this pocket watch, I would give an auction estimate of a quarter of a million dollars,” the appraiser added.
It is very difficult on the basis of eyesight alone to know the value of anything. It is only when we hear to whom it belonged, or when we hear what it does or where it came from, that we can perceive its value.
We see not so much with our eyes but with our ears.
So it is with the Christ child born in Bethlehem.
You would not have noticed anything unusual about him if you had seen him in a line-up of infants. He looked like any other newborn.
That is why the angel appeared to the shepherds to speak in their hearing, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
Because of what they heard, the shepherds went with haste to find the baby. And when they saw the child, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning him. And all who heard them wondered at what the shepherds told them.
It was not their seeing the child, but it was what the people heard of him that produced wonder. Their hearing informed their seeing.
So hear again the angel’s words: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
Those words “unto you” mean that this child is born for you personally. This holy child is your holiness before God. This child, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is your forgiveness in the sight of God. This child, who is the judge of all the earth, is your confidence on the day of judgment.
And when your last hour comes and death stares you in the face, this child is your confidence in that hour as well, because he is the resurrection and the life, as his word informs us.
Your eyes may dispute this.
Your eyes and your reason may tell you that you are separated from Christ’s birth by continents geographically and by millennia chronologically, but hear the words of the angel.
Hear that this child is born for you. Gaze upon him with your ears. See him through the words spoken to you.
In spiritual matters, you can see only what God tells you.
Put your eyes where your ears are, and then you will see this child correctly.
The Rev. John Armstrong is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church and can be reached at gracecolumbus.org.