An important, smile-worthy sign

The folks at the Alpena Free Methodist Church always have a way of getting me to smile. While it is a great group of people who worship there, the smile they get me to share usually comes from the latest sign outside the church.

Within the past week the sign changed, with the newest message being “A Long Time Ago In a Galilee Far, Far Away …”

The message is genius. How often can you combine the Christmas story with the latest Star Wars movie and have it seem perfectly natural?

I wonder how many other motorists have shared a smile as well over the sign?

My guess is there have been many, which is one of the purposes of the sign. Hopefully some might even have, after smiling, thought a bit about stepping inside the church to learn a little bit more about this baby called Jesus who came from Galilee.

A good sign should be thought provoking, spark an interest in those reading it and ultimately, result in some type of response.

And when I think about the Christmas story, I’m reminded of the role another sign played in that story — the star in the sky.

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘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.'” ~ Matthew 2: 1-2

Three Magi from far away saw a sign in the sky, a glowing new star that had not been there before. These men were educated and most likely astrologers or scientists. Thus, when the star appeared suddenly, they noticed it immediately. And, because of oral traditions passed on through the generations, they probably also were aware of Old Testament prophecy, so it wouldn’t have been a stretch for them to understand the star as a sign of something important taking place — something perhaps even prophetic.

We know it was important enough for them to set out in search of where the star would lead them. And, anticipating meeting a king foretold in scriptures, they went bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Today we may not have something as elaborate as a star in the sky to be a sign for us. None of us will travel by camel in search of a king.

That doesn’t mean signs aren’t as important.

The truth is, many of us still search for many things — love, happiness, peace, contentment. Many of us will look and look, yet never find.

Ultimately, perhaps what we need is a sign.

I know of a place where one tells a wonderful story, both on the sign outside, as well as in the sanctuary inside. In fact I know of many places around the region just like that one which also share that same wonderful story. It is a story of a baby who would grow up to be a king and ultimately, a savior.

It is a place where those searching can find answers. The answers begin with a story, a story of a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.

“A Long Time Ago In a Galilee Far, Far Away …”

Bill Speer can be reached via email at or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13.