From where I live out my faith (not meaning my literal community, but the culture around me) it appears that a lot more people seem to love Jesus just a little bit more this time of year. I mean, I see social media posts of people who are outraged that businesses no longer use “Merry Christmas” signs but “Happy Holidays”. I’ve seen scores of posts saying “Keep Christ In Christmas, comment Amen and copy and paste.” Or, “If you are not ashamed of Jesus, say Merry Christmas.” Oh, and people who will not purchase Christmas cards unless they have a manger scene, shepherds, wise men and a star. Christmas is so important for some that they make their second semi-annual pilgrimage to a church (the first pilgrimage being Easter).
Now do not get me wrong; I am always glad when anyone decides to attend a worship service because it will give them the best opportunity to experience God, more than clicking “like” or “share” buttons. It is probably just me, but I cannot help but wonder: “Why do more people ‘like’ and ‘share’ Jesus more now than they did in October?” I did a little bit of research about Advent and Christmas and was amazed at all the different information that is out there. But it seems that the consensus is that the “official” Advent and Christmas season for the church did not solidify itself until the latter part of the fourth and early part of the fifth centuries.
However, Lent is the oldest season recognized by most churches. It actually started as a result of the Council of Nicea in 325. Lent was designed to be a season of reflection leading up to the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Obviously, at least to me, the early church considered the Cross far more important than the manger. Thus, the title of this blog emerged: Wrong Wood, Wrong Place, Wrong Time. After reading all this about what others have said, I wondered what did Paul have to say? Did Paul ever write about the importance of placing glory around the manger? Did Paul find it important and necessary to boast about the manger? Well, here is what I discovered, a long time ago. It’s from Galatians 6:14-15 and I love the way The Voice puts it:
14 May I never put anything above the cross of our Lord Jesus the Anointed. Through Him, the world has been crucified to me and I to this world.15 Let me be clear: circumcision won’t save you—uncircumcision won’t either for that matter—for both amount to nothing. God’s new creation is what counts, and it counts for everything.
So why do people suddenly love Jesus more this time of year? I have an opinion on this question and I am going to share it with you. It’s easier to love a baby in a manger than it is to love The Savior who died on the Cross. Why is it easier to love the manger more than the Cross? Allow me to share with you 3 reasons:
1. Because at the Cross we are confronted with the ugliness of our own sins.
The Enemy tries to hide from our eyes the hideous nature that lives inside all of us, even among the best of us. He hides it by convincing us that we are not as bad as others, therefore we are OK. He hides it by convincing us that it’s not our fault but someone or something else is to blame. And most recently, he has convinced some that the Progressives are right, that we are simply born this way, therefore God created us this way and it’s OK. The truth is that sin reveals the truth that we look more like Quasimodo than Prince Charming or Sleeping Beauty. By never looking into the face of Jesus as He hung on that Cross, we never can never fully see the hideous nature inside, nor the brokenness that exists in our life.
2. Because at the Cross we are confronted with the price God paid for our sins.
We are so torn apart by sin, that our God paid the price for our sins. It is a price that we are unable, and truth be known, unwilling to pay. But God was willing to do the unthinkable and the unimaginable. God sent His Son, the extension of His true nature, into creation as one of those He created. Then Jesus allowed God to place on His shoulders every sin of every person; all of my sins and all of your sins. Then, when every sin was placed on Jesus, God did the unimaginable. God turned away from His Son. Jesus cried out on the Cross (Mark 15:34 NLT), “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” No, it just didn’t “feel” like God abandoned Him. The price of every sin is that God the Perfect Judge, turn away from the sinner. Jesus became the sinner and for the first and only time in all eternity, The Son became disconnected from The Father. This may seem radical, even blasphemous to some of you but it is the price that sin demands be paid in order for us to be forgiven. The price for our sin wasn’t paid in the wooden manger, but on the wooden Cross.
3. Because at the Cross we are confronted with the demands of Jesus.
The demand of Jesus isn’t that we kneel at the manger but that we carry our Cross and live our lives from that Cross. Jesus said in Mark 8:34 (NLT), Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said,“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” In a consumer-driven economy and culture, the Enemy wants us to take that same consumer mentality into the church. When we make the church about meeting our needs we make the church impotent and worthless. We have to give up our own way and live the way Jesus died: So that the world may know God’s love in such a way that they will allow the Holy Spirit into their life to redeem and transform them into their original design. When I want to do things my way, in other words, be selfish and superficial, I remember King David at the threshing floor of Araunah. In 1 Chronicles 21:14 (The Voice) King David said, “No, I must buy it for the full price. I will not give your possessions to the Eternal as if they were my own, nor will I give a burnt offering which costs me nothing. I must sacrifice something for this offering.”
So it is easy, so much easier, way too easy to kneel before the Wrong Wood (the manger) at the Wrong Time (His birth) and at the Wrong Place (Bethlehem). If this Season is to have any lasting impact on us, and thus be true to its meaning, then we must move beyond the typical scenes and remember why Jesus was born. He was born to die for us so that we can be restored to the Fellowship of our Heaven Father, and become transformed to live the way He designed us to live.
Bil Keane’s character Dolly is right; we like seeing Baby Jesus much more than the Suffering Jesus. But baby Jesus doesn’t help us; but the Suffering Jesus is our Savior. Remember to love God with all your heart; love others the way Jesus loves you (and in case you haven’t gotten it yet, He loves you perfectly from The Cross); and make sure all the glory goes to Him! Let’s pray:
I have only one Christmas wish that only you can give. Show me if I am living from the Cross or my own way. And if I am living my own way, save me from myself so that I might live the way you died for me. Amen and Amen!