From Bethlehem to Calvary, With Love

Christmas Cross“There are only two places where the powerful and great in this world lose their courage, tremble in the depths of their souls, and become truly afraid. These are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ.”

“No priest, no theologian stood at the cradle of Bethlehem. And yet, all Christian theology finds its beginnings in the miracle of miracles, that God became human.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

These two places, tied to the life and ministry of One Individual, are the pivotal points upon which all human existence hangs both now, and for eternity.

It is as though the cradle and the cross were the beginning and the ending of what amounted to one day of work for the Son of God.  God had determined in eternity past how that day would begin … and how it would end.  Jesus knew as he stepped into our world as an infant, lovingly wrapped in swaddling cloths in a quiet, private stable, that he would leave our world as a man stripped of his clothing and exposed as a public spectacle to the eyes of a mocking crowd.

There are not many who celebrate the birth of Jesus with those thoughts in mind.  If any acknowledgement at all is given to the connection between Christmas and Easter most prefer to keep them separate in their thinking.

But Bethlehem has very little meaning apart from Calvary.  Jesus might have been born of a virgin, lived a sinless life of obedience to God, even taught and performed miracles and then died as a venerable old man leaving a wonderful example after which to model our lives. But that is not what He came to do.  He came to die a sacrificial death to take away the sin of the world.

On the other hand, Calvary would have not had the power it has without Bethlehem.  The One who died that sacrificial death needed to be more than a mere man.  He needed to be more than God Himself!  He needed to be the God-man.  God, incarnate.

This is the time of year when our minds tend toward visiting Bethlehem.  It’s all part of the tradition of Christmas.  There are Christmas programs, Christmas music, the stories of shepherds, angels, innkeepers and the straw filled manger in a stable. 

Don’t stay in Bethlehem, however.  Be sure you do not lose sight of what Jesus knew, even on that night in Bethlehem.  Remember that the Manger and the Cross were both in His mind when He stepped into the world. Lift your eyes from the Babe in the manger to the Savior on the Cross.  See the baby … now a man … who died there to pay the penalty for your sin. 

Never gaze upon the manger without also seeing the Cross.   When you consider the baby lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling cloths and bathed in the glow of the Christmas lights … consider also His love for you as He hung on the Cross.  Remember the thorns on His brow, the stripes upon His back, the spikes driven through His wrists and feet, the cruel mockery of the crowds, the desertion of His friends, the shame of the Cross, the slow agonizing death and worst of all … the wrath of the Father.  Consider the result of His coming to Bethlehem and walking the road to Calvary … making it possible for you to be saved from an eternity in Hell and instead spend an eternity in His presence.

The Bible says that we are all sinners, and that our sin has separated us from God, with no remedy apart from the price Christ paid on the Cross.  Have you come to Calvary?  Have you forsaken all of the other destinations of spiritual pursuit and come to Calvary.  If not, God wants to give you, this Christmas, the gift of forgiveness and the guarantee of eternal life.  There is only one way to receive that gift … it is by trusting Jesus Christ as your Savior. 

For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.