A few days ago, I wrote about the nativity set and the babe in the manger's missing hand. Since I never know what I'm writing until after its done, I was very surprised about the hand and the poem. I thought I was writing about Mamie and the cross.
You may or may not remember this, but Jesus' mother, Mary, had a lot to think about when He was born, so she saved it up and pondered it later. I imagine it took the rest of her life to do that pondering. Since I've always thought Advent is a magnificent time for pondering, that's what I was doing as I looked at the nativity set. Somehow, it seemed incomplete, because the reality of the situation is that Jesus wrapped Himself in flesh and laid in the manger for one reason and only one reason. The Cross. The manger didn't save us. The manger didn't set us free. The manger was just the starting point on His march to the cross. It was that spotless lamb of God sacrificed on the cross that paid the penalty for our sin. The cross and the empty tomb are what set us free and they were the reason for the manger.
I might be wrong, but it seems like people prefer the baby in the manger to the Christ on the cross or the empty tomb. Maybe it's because babies are so cute and sweet and harmless. Babies change your life in nice ways (except for missing sleep for years). Babies are cuddly and make us want to coo.
The resurrected Christ, however, is a whole different story. That is a God-man who was not messing around. He stormed the gates of hell, took charge, and defeated Satan. The resurrected Jesus is not just a warrior, He is the commander of the Angel Armies. No one is going to pinch His cheek and say how sweet and cute He is. The appropriate response to the resurrected Jesus is to get down on our faces and worship Him. In fact, in heaven, we will spend quite a bit of time kneeling before Him and singing "Holy! Holy! Holy!"
All that was going through my mind as I pondered the nativity set, and that's how I realized it needed a cross. I have plenty of standing crosses, but it seems that the cross and the manger were sort of intertwined in a way. Finally, I laid the cross down and set the manger on it. It looks very non traditional, but that seems like the way it should be. After all, the cross was, in a way, the foundation and the future of the manger. They are inextricably linked, and the cross casts a shadow on both Mary and Joseph, exactly as it probably did.
This Christmas, let's do more than celebrate the baby Jesus in the manger. Let's celebrate the God-man, the Savior, that little baby grew up to be. Let's celebrate with thanksgiving that our Redeemer has come, He lives, and He is coming again! Hallelujah! Let's look past the manger to the cross and the empty tomb. Only then will we understand the life-altering importance of the blessed nativity.
(PS - Check back tomorrow night for Mamie and the nativity set. I didn't write it again but had already posted it as nibbling on the cross before I realized it. Sorry for the confusion)