In the next few hours all the presents will be unwrapped, the Christmas ham devoured, and many of you will succumb to the power of the late afternoon nap. Children giggling with delight as box after box contain another item from their expansive Christmas list. Parents, you will lament the fact that all you got was an ugly sweater and an old fruit cake that was probably re-gifted. Parents will curse and bemoan the difficulties of toy packaging designed with Ft. Knox security. Expensive toys will sit unattended under the tree while the kids play with the box it came in. We will sit and watch reruns of Christmas movies and expand our belts after gorging ourselves with a scrumptious feast of who-pudding and rare who-roast beast. The traditions of Christmas bring joy, wonder, and magic to millions throughout the world yet there is a sinister shadow that hangs over Christmas.
For all that Christmas brings in the way of toys, food, and merriment, it also brings a deep sadness for what we cannot have. Every joyful tradition that we share with our family simultaneously reminds us of the people that aren’t by our sides. The parents who once woke us up on Christmas morning will not be there to share Christmas with our little ones. The spouse who stayed up late Christmas Eve assembling your children’s gifts is no longer there to sip coffee with you while you watch the grandchildren play. It is a time of great joy and great sorrow wrapped in paper and bows. Despite the hope of Christmas there remains sorrow for what has been lost to the grip of death. There was also a sinister shadow that hung over the manger of the Christ child. A shadow, not from the darkness of the stable, nor the flickering firelight, but from the shadow of the cross.
The “good news of great joy that [was] for all people” (Luke 2:10) came at a great cost. The cost of a beaten battered man. The Holy Infant so tender and mild who slept in heavenly peace would be crushed under the eternal weight of the wrath of God. The prophet Isaiah foretold the cruel death he would suffer to atone for the sin of his people, “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV). It was the will of God, foreordained before the foundations of the earth (1 Peter 1:20; 2:21-25), to provide salvation for His children by inflicting a hideous and painful death upon Jesus. The path of salvation that began at the manger led Christ to the foot of Calvary. The groaning of his people, struggling with the far-reaching effects of sin (Gen 3:14-19), are ransomed from the slavery of sin by a suffering Savior (Isaiah 53). The shadow that hung above the manger followed Jesus throughout His entire life. He never deviated from the path because He knew the importance of his coming hour of misery (John 2:4; 7:6; 7:30; 12:23; 13:1; 17:1). e Jesus knew the bitterness of the suffering and the weight of the anguish that he would taste at Calvary (Matt 20:22; Luke 22:42). However, despite His foreknowledge of those horrible hours, His focus never left the cross. He came to seek and save the lost. Drinking deep the anguish of the wrath of God was the immense cost (Rom 3:21-26) of our redemption. He drank the cup of wrath so that we may drink the cup of life. He suffered in solitary silence so that we could join in the eternal fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and all the children of God (1 John 1:3).
The shadow of the cross would never be far from the life of Jesus nor should it be far from the life of His children. I pray that the pageantry of Christmas not be an opiate from the eternal significance that Christmas holds. Christ did not remain a tiny, unassuming baby in a manger. He grew in wisdom and stature with God and man. Ultimately, he purposefully laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:18) in order to redeem them from the crushing weight of God’s wrath on sin. The manger was the first step in a journey that leading to salvation. This child in a manager will once again return to this earth. Yet rather than wearing swaddling clothes he will be wearing the adornments of war to wage the final battle that vanquishes sin, deposes his enemies, and brings his people into the marriage feast of the Lamb for all eternity. His judgment will be swift, strong, and complete. Only those who have put their faith in his work on the cross and found shelter at the shelter of the cross will be saved. When he returns sin will be no more, the glory of God revealed in full, and his people will experience pure, lasting, eternal satisfaction of knowing and being known by God. The apostle John painted a vivid picture of that day…
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4
Those who put their faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will forever sing the joy of Calvary (John 1:12; Titus 3:5-6). The tears we cry will be wiped away, death will be no more, and we will be free from the pain and sorrow of this life. All because of the Christ child who did not flee from the shadow of the cross but used it to defang death and give his children eternal life. May our hearts rejoice and prepare him room!
Soli Deo Gloria