Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas in view of the Cross

My grandmother gave Misty and I a crystal nativity set the year before we were married. Misty has kept it boxed up for 13 years for fear our boys would break it. This year it is displayed on a table in our living room. The other day I started towards bed and noticed something lying on the manger in that crystal nativity set. It was a little cross necklace Cooper had showed me earlier that evening. Before he went to bed, Cooper had laid the cross across the feet of the baby Jesus lying in the manger. I snapped a picture of it and thought to myself how powerful an image this 8 year old had created without even knowing it.

It is amazing to consider Christmas in view of the cross. The thought that this young child we celebrate at Christmas would die a torturous, suffocating death is hard to grasp while singing "Away in a Manger." But we view these events from our limited, finite, and temporal positions. The Advent, or coming, of Christ that we celebrate with hymns, plays, and gift giving was not the start of God's plan of salvation for mankind. His plan didn't even start in the moments after Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It started in eternity past. That plan always existed in the mind of God because, being omniscient, He knew He would create man and that man would fall into sin and need a savior. Since a savior was needed a child was born in Bethlehem and placed in a manger, some 5 miles from the place where His arms would be stretched out and nailed to a cross 33 years later.

Since Jesus is God we know that He has always known that He would be the sacrifice for mankind. He knew it before mankind was ever created. Can you imagine the thoughts as the divine, all-knowing part of Jesus knew the cross was coming and watched as people were crucified by the Romans? Can you imagine the thoughts as the fleshly, life-saving desires flooded His heart and mind as He grew into adulthood? These thoughts are hard to reconcile with our celebrations of the baby lying in the manger.

When we celebrate Christmas, we are really celebrating the beginning of the end of Christ's life here on earth. I'm not suggesting that Christmas should take on some morbid or somber tone. But the birth of that Child should be celebrated with joy since God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die in our place (John 3:16). But as we celebrate, as we give gifts, and as we sing hymns, we need to remember the price this "Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger" paid for you and I. It should bring all the more joy and peace into our lives as we celebrate the arrival of the One who is called "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29, NIV).

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