The Cradle and the Cross

cross-on-manger[1]

A woman was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable. And after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids.

She felt what so many of us feel during the holiday season time of the year. Overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don’t forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.

Finally, the elevator doors opened, and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of gifts. When the doors closed, she couldn’t take it anymore and stated, “Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot.”

From the back of the car everyone heard a quiet calm voice respond, “Don’t worry, we already crucified him.”

All born will die. Jesus was born to die.

It was the reason for his coming. Without a Good Friday and Easter, Christmas is just another holiday and not a holy day. To appreciate Christmas, we have to understand the relationship between the cradle and the cross. The most accurate picture of Christmas has a crib with the shadow of the cross looming over it. Jesus did not come into the world just to provide beautiful pageantry. He did not come so people could “Ooh and ah” over the precious baby. The essence of the Christmas season is not that Jesus was a baby. That’s important only in so much as it helps us to understand that he entered into the realm of humanity, that ultimately, he might save his people from their sin. The bottom line was that this baby would die, providing salvation for all who would believe.

In fact, his name—Jesus—means Savior. Jesus came to save. To redeem a fallen humanity. To make way for sinful people to approach a holy God. The only way he could accomplish that feat was through his death.

Christmas, therefore, is not just about a baby; it’s about a cross. See Jesus on the cross. Because he was 100% God and 100% man, he reached up with one hand and took hold of the Father, and he reached down with the other, taking hold of sinful humanity, and by his unique nature, he brought us together at the cross.

The whole purpose of his coming into the world was to die. His death fulfilled prophecy accomplishing God’s will, and conquering sin.

I fear at the Christmas season that we get caught up in the pageantry, the lights, the spectacle, the parties, the gift exchanging, the decorations, and all of that, that we forget that the baby would die for the sins of all humanity. Not that we shouldn’t be joyful and celebratory, we should. But, we should also have one eye on Good Friday when Jesus would hang from a rugged Roman cross. Without the cross, the birth is meaningless.

Jesus was born into the world to be our Savior. And, for that to happen, he had to die. Don’t forget that this Christmas.

I wrote a poem that embodies this truth entitled “Born to Die.”

People crowded tiny Bethlehem; it bulged at all sides.
The census brought visitors from far and wide.
“No room, no room,” was the Innkeeper’s cry.
The guest in the stable was born to die.

Touching him, Mary must have known,
By the Holy Spirit, his seed had been sown.
With swaddling clothes in a manger, he lies,
The little baby was born to die.

The wise men visited from afar,
With gifts so precious, led by a star.
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the best money could buy.
But God’s gracious gift was born to die.

The shepherds gazed into the moonlit night.
An angel revealed an unbelievable sight.
Quickly they came, kneeling in the straw so dry,
Caressing the innocent lamb born to die.

Years later the child was nailed to a cross.
Down the splintery beam, his blood trickled like moss.
Onlookers passed uttering but a sigh.
Didn’t they understand? The Savior was born to die.

Nineteen centuries have passed the corridors of time.
Many celebrate Christmas but fail to comprehend the crime.
Merely recognizing his birth is no alibi
For adoring the eternal king born to die.

And, the good news is that Jesus died for you. It is the gift of Christmas. Jesus had you on his mind from the very beginning. Celebrate that. Then, you will understand the real meaning of Christmas.

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About Rick Ezell

I am a husband, father, pastor, and writer. This blog is about shaping character, transforming church, and impacting culture. I believe that if one defines their moments then their moments will determine their character and their character will influence their world. I write on personal development, church leadership, and our changing culture. I also write about the resources I am developing and the books I am writing. My goal is to create challenging, relevant, and inspiring content that will help you be a better person, the church be a better parish, and the world a better place. If you are interested in those things, this blog is for you. I have served the church my entire career as a student minister and senior pastor. I studied at Samford University, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (eventually I will get it). I have written eight books. My most recent ones are Chapter 13: The Excellence of Love and Soul Therapy: The Healing Words of Psalm 23. Both are available as eBooks. I have written over 1000 articles for various local, regional, and national publications. I have been married to Cindy for thirty-three years. We have one wonderful daughter. We live in Greenville, SC. In my free time, I enjoy writing, reading, running, tennis, and golf. You can contact me via email or follow me on Twitter or Facebook. This is my personal blog. The opinions I express here do not necessarily represent those of my employer. The information I provide is on an as-is basis. I make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its use.
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