The Cross And The Manger by Rick Burdette
THE Cross And The Manger
“A Baby born in Bethlehem
His hands, soft and gently curled
But held within their dimples grasp
The hope of the whole world”
We’ve been seeking to answer the important question what does Christmas really mean?
It really does mean that the word of creation became flesh…so God could be our redeemer, it really does mean that God would put his feet in our shoes so he could walk as and example for us to follow.
But maybe the most important truth I can share with you this Christmas isn’t about celebrating one day…It isn’t about one season of crazy hectic shopping and gift giving. The real meaning of Christmas is found in God’s plan to save mankind from their sins…not only does Christmas involve the manger story, but also the cross. The real meaning of Christmas is the miraculous story of God’s plan to rescue us by becoming one of us.
It is a story of hope, peace, joy and love…where the light penetrates the darkness
Luke 2: 8-14
“Don’t be afraid – this is good news of great joy for everyone”
Christmas doesn’t seem like good news and great joy for everyone I meet. The homeless drunk I sat talking with last week wasn’t experiencing too much good news and joy, neither was the woman who was facing the first Christmas after her Dad’s death, or the guy who was trying to figure out where his kids would be on their Christmas after his divorce… The songs seem kind of hollow…the shopping is a chore, the cold doesn’t get any warmer because someone says “Merry Christmas”
But I believe with all my heart Christmas was made for those with a broken heart, not the false, glitzy, tensile thing we sometimes call Christmas, but the real Christmas. You will not find the good news of great joy in a diamond box on the restaurant table that makes you go “Oh my Gosh…Oh my Gosh!” you will not find hope in the S.U.V. stuffed in a giant stocking under an even more gigantic Christmas tree, You won’t discover it in a bottle, or the eggnog, its found in God’s plan and His purpose, no matter how difficult the circumstances might look.
Jesus is the one who holds all things together.
I THE GLUE OF HEAVEN
Jesus created everything, things in heaven and on earth, things that are visible and invisible, thrones, powers, rulers, authorities…all were created by him and for him. He existed before all those things were created, and he is the glue that holds ever thing together. (John 1)
[Jesus isn’t some celestial watchmaker that put this world of a timepiece together, wound it up and just lets it run on its own! All creation was made by him and for him, His plan is to redeem and rescue it. God had to be born of a virgin in a manger as part of this plan foretold by Micah and Isaiah the prophets. Jesus would live a sinless life as our example, die in our place to satisfy God’s perfect justice on a cross. He would rise from the dead …”the first fruit of the resurrection,” but all this was planned, All this is God working in ways no one could have imagined, or envisioned.]
Can you imagine being a 16 year old pregnant Jewish unmarried girl, engaged, betrothal to a carpenter, who has been informed. by angelic messenger. “Greetings you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you…don’t be afraid, your going to have a child, a little boy, He will be called the Son of the most high. God will give him the throne of David, He’ll reign over the house of Jacob forever. His Kingdom will never end.
How’s this going to happen? I’m a virgin? (Mary) the angel answers “The Holy spirit will come upon you and the power of the most high will over shadow you, so the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God”
Mary’s response it’s even more remarkable “I’m the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as the Lord has said”
“Mary was nearly divorced, forced to become an immigrant in her teens, one day she would witness her firstborn’s gruesome execution. I wonder if any of us have ever realized that Mary was probably only in her mid-forties when she stood at the foot of the cross? She watches her beloved oldest child, arrested, beaten, tortured and displayed out for the world to see…nailed to a cross.
Terry Ocasey writes “From upon the cross, her Jesus deserted by his brothers, who mocked his messianic pretensions (John 7:5) speaks to his Mom and his best friend “Mom, John will take care of you. John care for Mom” (John 19: 26, 27)
If you ever wonder if God can bring good out of bad, think of Mary, from the manger to the cross she knew Jesus was the Savior of the world, the glue that holds all creation together.
“For God was please to have all his fullness dwell through Him and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, How? “By making peace through His blood shed on the cross…once we were alienated from God…His evenness because of the way we think and act…but now we have been reconciled by Christ’s physical body through death.
His shed blood is the glue that reunited us with God, that is, if we’ve accepted Him, and received the gift of salvation He’s offered.
But Jesus is much more than the one who connects us to God…He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the first born from among the dead…
What does Christmas really mean for God’s children…
II WE ARE A FAMILY WITH AN ETERNAL INHERITANCE.
As we get older the earthly celebrations of Christmas change, we’ve buried our Mom’s and Dads, relatives and friends, even children, don’t get me wrong, there’s still “joy” with grand babies, and new marriages, but the toys that use to excite us don’t really matter as much. (Although I’ve never gotten that new S.U.V in a stocking under a gigantic tree.)
I can only share that I believe Christmas really becomes what it’s suppose to be when the church, God’s people become family church isn’t a place you go, but a family you belong to and love. it won’t replace the earthly family members you’ve lost, but it will powerfully enrich your life and ministry when you share it with others who feel the same.
The last mention of Mary, Jesus mother is when she is present at the Pentecostal preparation Prayer meeting in Jerusalem. Its after the resurrection and everyone is praying aloud, including Mary, not just with Jesus disciples but with her own boys; Jesus brothers have come to believe.
Jesus, the head of the body, His church has brought together ….family, ….family by blood and by His blood.
We really do need each other…life is meant to be shared, and if we share it with a family devoted to the same father, lead by the same big brother, sharing the same spirit of compassion and purpose—the Joy of Christmas isn’t just 1 day of year its 24/7 – 365!.
I love this story…
Mamie Adams always went to a branch post office in her town because the postal employees there were friendly. she went there to buy stamps just before Christmas one year the lines were particularly long. Someone pointed out that there was no need to wait in line because there was a stamp machine in the lobby. “I know, ” said Mamie, ‘but the machine won’t ask me about my arthritis.” (Taken from Bits and Pieces, December, 1989, p.2)
God has not designed the church, the body of Christ, as a machine that dispenses spiritual “Stamps” This body, with Jesus as its head is connected to each other by something much stronger…love…we care about each other, we hurt for others who are hurting…just like Jesus did.
Christmas time is difficult for many, because people are absent, chairs are empty, while they see others with joy and excitement, loneliness creeps in.
Jesus does something amazing in his family, He connects us, He joins us at the table with an awesome communion.
When the writer to the Hebrews says “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Heb 10:25)
He’s sharing “We are a family, we need to share life, and worship together, but some are disconnected, some break the bond. Please don’t, because unless we encourage and love each other in Christ we will not be prepared for this return, that day He comes for His forever family. His body.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Pastor and theologian who was an enemy
of the Nazis because he refused to go along with their state idea of a church that practiced the anti-Semitism of the Nazis. In fact, he was a hunted man who upheld authentic Christian principles. As a part of the German underground he was not safe to worship openly. Bonhoeffer knew there was no other community
and fellowship like that experienced within the Body of Christ. He said”
Baptism incorporates us into the unity of the Body of Christ, and the Lord’s supper
fosters and sustains our fellowship and communion…in that Body”. During
the Nazi reign, Bonhoeffer was cut off from other believers, and it took a toll
on him. Donald LaSuer says “Bonhoeffer’s painful discovery is instructive
for us. Cut off from the nurturing fellowship of other Christians, he felt a deeper
hunger for the fellowship that was no longer available to him. Like a hungry man
who knows the taste of bread though he can no longer reach and break from the loaf, he knew the power of fellowship when it was painfully absent”.
When we come together for worship, especially when we meet around the Lord’s table we have a chance to experience a fellowship, a deep connection, a spiritual glue that helps us remember how much our Lord loves us so we in turn can love like him.
Colossians 1:23 says “If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel”.
Satan knows the only way we can continue in faith, with a solid foundation is to share real hope, to be encouraged and to be people who encourage others with “Good News.” And Paul knows it’s a conditional statement, “If you do this…this will happen.”
If you stay connected you’ll be healthy, you’ll grow in Christ you’ll be a person of hope, if you separate yourself from the Lord’s supper, and his family, you won’t.
(Growing up on of my favorite T.V. shows uses Gilligan’s Island.
There were very few of these episodes that you could consider emotionally
touching. But I do remember one. Gilligan had gotten his feelings hurt and decided to move away to the other side of the Island to live alone in a cave.
Immediately, this became a miserable existence for Gilligan–he was all alone.
But also miserable for everyone else on the island-one of their own was
no longer among them, in fellowship with them…and there was a terrible
void. They missed him at the dinner table. They missed his jokes, his laughter,
his gentleness. They even missed his clumsy screw-ups. I think at one point
in the episode they were sitting around the dinner table taking turns talking
about the specific things they miss about him. So what did they do? I think, it began with The Skipper. He decided to leave the rest and go live with Gilligan, so he wouldn’t be alone. Then another person did the same. Then another, Until finally, all seven people were together again on the other side of the island living in Gilligan’s cave. In true spiritual community, we either make it together, or we
don’t make it, at lease not in a healthy way.)
Here’s a fun exercise for you to do when you have time. Use your concordance
and find all the scriptures from Acts to Revelation in which you find the word
“together” and see what early Christians did “together”. Here’s a sampling:
Meeting together. Praying together. Sharing material things with one another.
Planning and strategizing together. Working together. Standing together when
under attack. Jesus Christ never intended for any of his followers to follow him in
isolation from other believers. Wherever it’s possible, Christ intends for all of us to be in this together; not just for one hour on Sunday mornings- not just during “official” church meetings, but through the day to day course of life.
The reason they missed Gilligan is they’d shared life together, worked together, hoped for rescues together, eaten together, been shipwrecked together. When Gilligan wasn’t there, they weren’t complete.
I’ve known people who have gone to hide in their car because they got their feelings hurt, but when no one came to join them they wondered why. Its because they hadn’t done the “together” part. But man isn’t it pretty special when you hurt and you’re in the cave by yourself and you look up to find “The Skipper saying “I’ve missed you little buddy?”