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Christmas and the Cross

Up and down our road, Christmas light displays sparkle in the snowy dark. Some are breathtaking, obviously the result of hours and hours of loving work. Upon seeing a cross lit with white lights as part of the display in one yard, someone asked me what a cross has to do with Christmas. After I closed my gaping mouth, I decided that a better understanding of the answer to this question was worth exploring.

Jesus’ sojourn on Earth is arguably the central event in all history. Christmas celebrates the beginning (almost) of his time here, and the cross marks the end (almost) of his terrestrial journey. Those parenthetical “almosts” are more important than you might think. We tend to think of birth and death as the beginning and end of a person’s life. That’s not really true for any of us though, and far less true for Jesus the Messiah, the Alpha and Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty Creator of all that is, seen and unseen, now and forever Amen!

Though Jesus’ birth in a stable or cave was accompanied by terrific special effects (as in glorious armies of angels blotting out the stars, declaring en masse the long-anticipated arrival of the Savior), the truly significant event happened nine months before. Jesus was conceived in the womb of a virgin. This miracle made it possible for our infinite God to be born and walk among us as a man, live a perfect life, and die a sacrificial death that could pay the penalty for sin for all human beings.

And that, of course, brings us to the cross. Jesus made it clear beforehand that he would lay down his life willingly, as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Meditate for a moment or two on what it must have required for the Prince of Peace, the Designer of delicate diatoms and gigantic galaxies, to allow self-important and ignorant men to slap him around, to torture and humiliate him, spike him to a rough cross and leave him to hang until he died. And he did die, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, offering one sacrifice for sins forever.

Now we’re at the other “almost.” Jesus’ death was almost the end of his earthly life. For three days, everybody thought it was the end. But as the old hymn says, death could not keep his prey. Jesus had laid down his life willingly, and on the third day he picked it back up and conquered death forever. So while Christmas just misses emphasizing the most important aspect of Jesus’ birth, Easter hits it right on by continuing past the cross to celebrate his resurrection.

Christmas and the cross are two aspects of the most amazing demonstration of love ever. Our Savior loves us so much that he confined himself to a tiny packet of flesh, committing himself to a humble life and a harrowing death, all so that we can be reconciled to him if we so choose. If that doesn’t make you want to sing the Hallelujah Chorus, I don’t know what would!

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