If there had been no manger, there could not have been the Cross. And without the Cross – well, my war with God would still be raging.
When we think about Christmas visions of a cooing baby lying blissfully in a manger filled with clean, perfectly placed straw fills our mind’s eye. Rarely, if ever, do we consider the reason for the manger. We rarely think about the reason for the incarnation of Christ that way? Why is that? Though we seldom think of the Cross when looking at the Manger, we should.
Before Jesus came to the earth to die for sins, I was dead. I was helpless against the power of temptation and sin.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Ephesian 2:1-2 NASB
There was nothing I could do to stop myself. I sinned because it was my nature to sin. That sin was only a small symptom of the rotting of my soul. You see I was in total rebellion against God. Oh yeah, I was there. A war against God I knew – I KNEW – I could and would win. If you’ve seen the movie Forrest Gump I was Lieutenant Dan on Forrest’s boat in the middle of a hurricane yelling – and challenging – God to an all-out fight. Yep, that was me.
I could hide the bitterness and anger that filled my soul for a while, but it would come out eventually. My long war with God was indicative of my destination. I was headed to hell in the proverbial hand basket. I was heading to hell not because I had neglected to meet Jesus as my Savior. No, I was headed to hell because I was a slave to sin, powerless against it. I was going to hell because I was in utter rebellion against God. I deserved my one-way ticket to hell.
But something strange happened on my journey to Satan’s kingdom.
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the[ kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight Ephesians 1:4-8 NASB
Jesus interrupted my life and had mercy on me. He saved me. He remade me. He extended grace to a graceless man. He extended love to a loveless man. I did not find God. He found me. Make no mistake, salvation is all God’s work and none my work. And I am so thankful for that.
Since that day when God irrupted in my life things have changed and continue to change. When I was outside of His grace, I could not help but sin. But now, I can resist temptation and sin. Oh I still give in – and that is to my shame – but I don’t always give in to sin. When I was outside of grace I could do nothing to please Him. Now, a recipient of His grace, I can please Him. I am able to obey now, rather than just rebel. I can serve Him rather than fight Him. My long war with God is over. And I was the winner. I am brand new!
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB
No I didn’t win because my will or strength bested God’s will or strength. No, I won because He defeated me. Sounds kind of weird I know but it is true. I’ve never been more joyful as I am a defeated human who is victorious in life…because of Christ.
So why consider the Cross – Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection – when looking at a manger? Well that baby in that straw – which probably not too clean – in the manger was born for one reason: to die for a sinner such as I. I can’t help but be humbled at the thought of Jesus as a baby – the only truly innocent baby ever born – born into this sinful world yet untouched by its filth. His mission was to seek and save those who were lost. He came to heal the rotting soul of man…my rotting soul, my lost self. He came for me. For. Me.
So this is why I think of the Cross when looking at the Manger, The wonder of the incarnation is fully expressed in the brutality of the Cross. If there had been no manger, there could not have been the Cross. And without the Cross – well, my war with God would still be raging.
The incarnation is wonderfully awesome because in being humble enough to become human with the purpose of providing the only sacrifice able to wash sins away, Jesus demonstrated HIs great love for me.
What about you? Are you in Christ?
Do you consider the Cross when you see a cute baby all snuggled and comfy in a nice, clean manger? Have you thought about your war against God? Your rebellion? Your inability to resist sin?