Well, Christmas 2010 is just 24 hours away. For the most part, all of the shopping is done, most of the gifts are wrapped, much of the baking has commenced, and several are traveling (or just arriving somewhere). Yet in all the hustle and bustle – no matter how prepared or totally stressed we are – Christmas comes. And so it will be this year, Christmas is here!
Think back 2,000 years. Put yourself on the scene where Jesus entered the world and took on our flesh. What a lowly scene it was: no hoopla; no grand entrance; no earthquake or parting of the sky. Just a young Jewish teenage girl (probably 13 or 14 years old); the man who she was pledged to be married to; and a few shepherds who had gathered. Of course there is the star – the supernatural divine sign that something monumental had occurred that night. The magi would be on the way, bearing gifts.
The manger scene is quite humble. Many find ways to dress it up and then, put 3 wise-men around it – it ends up looking precious, noble, and not too overly personal. But in reality, in that 1st Advent, two worlds collided with such force that we can’t totally understand it. You see, the Lord of Creation – God with us – came and became “raw meat” and “flesh.” He stepped into our existence, into time, in order to once and for all bring us back to Himself and show us “The Way.” Christmas is a message of Salvation – never separate the two. It is about the One-True God loving us so much that He would rather come and die for us than have eternity without us. This is just Who He is. This is just His character, revealed and demonstrated. It is of course foretold in the OT.
I am convinced that Christmas isn’t too confrontational. After all, who is offended by a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger? It’s precious – it’s cute – it’s a baby. Even unbelievers are overwhelmingly not affected by this. Sure, there are the exceptions – but a large % don’t even broach the subject because it is not threatening. Here is what IS threatening: The Cross. You don’t believe it – ask people what they think is more threating, personal, and offensive: The manger or The Cross. See what kind of results you get. Yet, as I have come closer to God in relationship, as I have studied and explored His Word, as I have the Spirit living within me…leading and directing my path – I am more and more convinced that the manger directs us in the Way of the Cross.
Consider this: Bethlehem (Hebrew) means “house of bread.” Jesus is the “bread of life.” So, the bread of life is born in the house of bread. Later, at the end of His ministry before He is betrayed, Jesus enjoys intimacy with His disciples in what is referred to as “The Last Supper.” There, He breaks and shares bread (His body) and commands His followers to continue this practice “in remembrance of Him.” Additionally, Bethlehem was the spot for the sacrificial sheep that were used in those days. There is much evidence to suggest that in Jesus’ time, only the sheep from Bethlehem were utilized for the sacrifices. So, the Sacrifical Lamb was born in the very city where lambs were raised for sacrifice.
Let’s move to the gifts of the 3 magi. No one has a problem with gold or frankinscence – expensive and “high-end” products. But what about this gift of myrrh? What does myrrh have in common with a baby? On the surface, one might say “very little, I just don’t get it.” As we dig deeper, here is an interesting revelation: myrrh was used for embalming the dead, and while it had a fragrance, it’s predominate usage was in prepping bodies for burial. I am sure some have wondered about the symbolism – others have probably brought into question the significance of bringing a baby, a newborn baby, a product normally reserved for the dead. But isn’t it powerful? Isn’t this gift a clear sign of something much, much greater than what any of us could imagine? Yes, it points directly to something that was a part of His coming; that is, His Cross.
Friends and family: This Christmas, let’s steadfastly remember and recall that the Boy Who brings joy is also The Man Who takes away the sin of the world. He came to give us life and life more abundantly (in Him). For there is no condemnation for those that are “in” Christ Jesus. He is our Salvation. May we remember and recall these truths, this Christmas, and may we make the plea of the magi who said on their arrival, “we have come to worship Him!”
Merry Christmas to you and yours…