Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Beyond Christmas to the Cross

This Christmas season I've been teaching the boys the Christmas story. We've read from the Bible and several Bible storybooks that we have. We've sang Christmas songs and acted out the story with our Veggie Tales nativity.  A couple of days in I realized that I couldn't tell them about Jesus' birth without also telling them about Jesus' death. To tell the full story of Christmas you must explain the cross. Christmas without the cross is just a story. 

Christmas is the happy part of the story for us: a tiny baby, angels, a glorious fulfillment of prophecy. We celebrate with Christmas trees, family dinners, carols, and cookies. But it wasn't a warm, fuzzy story for the people involved. Mary risked everything- her reputation, her future, her life- to be the mother of Jesus. Joseph sacrificed his reputation and his plans to fulfill God's will. Mary delivered her first baby, not in a hospital with assistance and support, but in a dark and dirty stable, alone and surely frightened. They spent the first few years of Jesus' life running from Herod far from home and family.

Jesus certainly gained nothing coming to earth. The best experiences we can have on earth cannot compare to what He had in heaven. He experienced hunger and cold, discomfort and sadness. He was mocked, betrayed, and crucified. The time He lived on earth He lived in the shadow of the cross. He didn't expect a warm welcome or a throne or high position. He knew the fickleness of people; the ones who shouted "Hosanna" would yell "Crucify Him" just a short while later. And He still came. 

Why? Why did Jesus come knowing what was before Him? There have been several roads I've traveled that I would have opted to skip if I had been given that option. Jesus came knowing. None of what He experienced, what He suffered, was a surprise to Him. Jesus came and endured because He had a purpose. He came to redeem the world. 

I think I often forget my purpose. When I experience hardship my first reaction is to search for comfort or approval or some bandage for my feelings. But God didn't put me- or you- on earth to be comfortable. We are here to glorify God and to help others. If I lived with that in mind I think my reaction to life would be different. I would evaluate my decisions and my actions in light of what most honors God or how I can best help others instead of wondering what would be easiest. 

Jesus didn't suffer for Himself. He suffered for me, for you, for the world. Am I willing to suffer for others? Will I put up with discomfort and a lack of ease for the good of someone else? Will I experience pain or loneliness or loss of reputation for another?

Will I die to my own wishes for the good of my husband or my children? Will I give up my time and my desires to better the life of an elderly widow or a friend going through a hard time? Will I sacrifice some of my money to spread the Gospel around the world? 

If I'm going to live like Jesus I will have to. When you're celebrating with family this Christmas stop for a few moments and consider what Christmas cost those involved. Look ahead in the story to the cross and remember the purpose. Then ask yourself what you will give for your Savior. 

Jesus knew when He came,

He would suffer in shame. 

He could feel every pain and sorrow. 
But He left paradise, 
With His blood He paid the price. 
My redemption to Jesus I owe.

 "Born to Die" Ron Hamilton

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