The Cradle & The Cross

It’s hard to believe Christmas is around the corner. I’m not sure if it’s hard to believe because each year just seems to be going quicker, or because as I type this, it’s 73 degrees in the middle of December. I am no longer in Ohio, that is for sure! It’s easy to forget what Christmas really is about, especially in the busyness of this season, but I want to reflect on the glorious reality of Advent–Christ coming in the flesh. The sermon I heard recently helped my mind and heart take in the implications of Christ’s coming–what it says about our need for a Savior and what it says about a God who pursues us.

I think we can sometimes forget that Jesus has always been and will always be–even before he came to earth as a baby. John refers to Jesus as “the Word”, or speech of God: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was not made” (John 1:1-3).

Jesus took on humanity, not by losing any of his divine nature, but by adding humanity to himself. It’s a great mystery in that he came to earth as fully God and fully man. John 1:14 would say it like this: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” All along, God foretold Christ’s coming to his people, the very Word. I like how Charles Spurgeon puts it saying “Jesus is to the Father what speech is to us; He is the unfolding of the Father’s thoughts, the revelation of the Father’s heart. He that hath seen Christ hath seen the Father.” God promised through his own words in the Old Testament that the Word (Jesus) would come as a sacrifice to end all sacrifices needed in order to be reconciled to the Father and see him rightly and beautifully.

Before Jesus entered the cradle, before you or I existed, and before the foundation of the world, he knew he would have to go to the cross to fulfill his Father’s will. I know that can get our heads spinning but it’s true. Revelation 13:8 says “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” and 1 Peter 1:20 says “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” So when you look at the manger, don’t just celebrate a sweet, innocent baby who was born, but savor him who was born to go to the cross. He took on flesh to put to death what separates us from God–our very sin. Christmas doesn’t just mean that Jesus is born among us, but that he came to die for us. We don’t have to wonder if he loves us because he willingly came in the flesh, knowing he would be born only to die (and rise three days later).

Born to die. Born to humble himself to the point of death on a cross. Think about that.

Jesus chose THIS?! Phil. 2:6-8: “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form of a servant, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” God came to us in Jesus, which is why Christianity is unique. All other religions that say it starts with us and we reach for God or whoever it is we worship. All other religions demote Jesus, but as Christians, we get to elevate Jesus precisely because he traded a crown for a cross and he overcame it still.

Jesus could have come and reflected “earthly power.” He could have been born into a wealthy family. He could have turned stone into bread in the wilderness. He could have come down from the cross and saved himself. The question is not what Jesus could do, but what he willed to do. He submitted to God’s will, which was to crush Jesus for our sake. It’s interesting because he is God and didn’t come with earthly riches and power. Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power, yet willingly subjected himself to death on our behalf. We somehow think we are entitled to anything but humility, and we aren’t God. Christmas should be a humble reminder for us.

The cradle of Christmas points to the cross of Calvary. In fact, the whole Old and New Testament point to Jesus, so no wonder there is great parallel between these events. The world would not see a cradle or a cross as a beautiful thing. Jesus was born in a stable (animal trough), wrapped in cheap cloth. And the crazy part is “He is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). According to the world, it is shameful, but God doesn’t choose what is “wise” according to the world; He chooses what is foolish (1 Cor. 1:27) in his own wisdom to make Himself known in all the earth. God displayed humility, from birth all the way to Calvary.

It may look like he is feeble from the cradle, but the very Word that holds all the power became flesh for us. That says something about our great God–the Author and Perfecter of our faith. He initiates love, we don’t. We get to join in with the angels, praising the King of kings saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth” because he has come. Though he looks weak according to the world, he came to conquer sin and triumph over Satan, to overcome the power of darkness, and manifest God’s good-will towards men.

We long for a Hope outside of ourselves, whether we see and believe that or not. Our hearts cannot be fully content with finitude–that which has bounds. But Jesus Christ has no end, so our thirst can be quenched by him and him alone. God was still glorious before the incarnation, but we can now relate to the incarnate God in flesh–Emmanuel, God with us. The conception of a god who never became man cannot satisfy our human souls like the God who did come in the flesh.

Friends, be encouraged with comfort and joy that Christ has come once and he will come again to make all things right. We celebrate his birth as we long for his return to restore all things.

“God Himself has come; the Infinite, the Almighty, has stooped from the highest heaven that He may pick thee up, a poor undone and worthless worm. Is there not comfort for thee here? Does not the Incarnation of the Savior take away the horrible dread which hangs over men like a black pall?” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

 

 

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