In the Shadow of the Cross
By Rhona Hathaway from “Grounded in the Gospel”
I’m sure you’ve heard it many times - Jesus is the reason for the season!
In one of his recent advent sermons, my husband remarked how much he dislikes this phrase. Perhaps I should clarify so as not to misrepresent him. Yes, he did say that he really didn’t like the phrase, but not because it lacked truth, but rather because it has now become so overused. It is true – we celebrate Christmas because of the birth of Jesus Christ. What my husband dislikes is the way people say it so flippantly, send cards with it, post it on Facebook and I think there is even a Christmas song with this phrase in it. Yet, do people stop and think about the meaning behind the words?
As I was reading in Hebrews this week, I loved the words the author penned as he talked about the Son.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” Hebrews. 1:1-2
These words sound to me like the beginning of an epic adventure story! Immediately my mind goes back to the familiar words that God spoke to the prophets, oh so long ago. Maybe the author of Hebrews has the following verses in mind as he writes this letter to his New Testament readers:
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of
Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” Micah 5:2
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be uponhis shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” Isaiah 9: 6-7
While these verses have us thinking about the great One who was to come, our thoughts usually go to the babe in a manger. We sing and think of the wise men, the shepherds, the angels and even the young virgin mother. Yet, do we consider the difficult road that this little babe would face years later? The emotional toil of Gethsemane, Pontius Pilate washing his hands of responsibility, the Roman soldiers whipping and beating an innocent, sinless man, Jesus stumbling as He carries the cross through the streets of Jerusalem, Jesus being nailed to that cross and finally, the tomb that would be sealed?
I remember when I gave birth to my first child. Throughout the entire nine months of preparation for her birth, I dreamed of holding her in my arms and the wonderful future that was before her. Yet on the night she was born and I finally held my beautiful daughter, my mind instead went in a very different direction. I began to picture all the terrible things that could possibly go wrong in her life – sickness, injuries and evil people. Suddenly a fierce and newly found protective instinct rose up within me. I wonder what went through Mary’s mind as she held her precious little baby on the night He was born. Did she wonder and worry about His future? Did the words of the angel strike fear in her heart for all that her son would face?
“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:32-33
I would think Mary had no idea what lay ahead. She would not comprehend that this ‘kingdom’ the angel spoke of would be obtained at such a high cost. How could she look into that lovely face and know the cruelty of the cross that was to come? Yet, as all epic stories go - when things seem to be at their darkest, when we sense all hope of victory is gone, when we give up while believing that the enemy has triumphed - something changes. Something miraculous happens. The stone is rolled away. The tomb is now empty. Doubt and fear is replaced with wonder as hope is restored.
On that night so long ago, Immanuel stepped into history so that through His sinless life, substitutionary death and glorious resurrection He could reconcile a sinful mankind to a Holy God.
“…He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Hebrews 9:26b
At Christmastime, when our thoughts go to the manger and we picture that sleeping child, we should also consider the cross that would follow. This is the true reason for the season - that Jesus Christ came to earth to go to the cross on our behalf. Jesus took upon Himself our sin that through His death, we might have life eternal. Hallelujah…what a Saviour!