The Manger and the Cross

A Reading for Christmas


The reading explains that the Lord of the universe chose a manger because He faced a cross. It concludes by presenting the plan of salvation.

The Bible teaches that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God. But though by nature He was an equal member of the Godhead, He willingly assumed the nature of a man and dwelt in a tabernacle of flesh. Perhaps we can understand why, in His human form, He pursued a carpenter's trade, for He was Himself a builder, by whom all things were made. The entire universe is His handiwork. But why would exalted deity choose to be born in a manger? Had He become a king's son, He could have enjoyed the luxury of an ornate crib lined with soft blankets. Even parents of modest means would have given Him a comfortable bed. And even His own parents, poor though they were, laid Him in a manger only because they were stranded without decent lodgings in a town far from home. Surely, the Lord of all could have arranged for Himself a better entrance to life in this world.

But He chose a manger because He faced the cross. As He would end His life by undergoing deep humiliation, so He began it. From first to last, Jesus identified with the lowliest of men, for He did not come into the world to command general admiration. Rather, He came to rescue man from sin. Each of us, without exception, is a willful sinner incapable of self-reform. Our sin divides us from God, who is righteous, and renders us unfit to live eternally in His presence. Yet because we are His own creation, God loves us and desires to enjoy our fellowship forever.

Here, then, is a great dilemma that only God could resolve, and He has resolved it in a way difficult for us to comprehend. To put away our sin, Jesus endured the gruesome ordeal of death by Roman crucifixion. As He suffered, He took our sin upon Himself, allowing God to arouse all His fury toward sin and vent it upon Jesus rather than upon us. In consequence, God can overlook our sin and grant us eternal life. All we must do to obtain it is to receive Jesus as our Savior.

The preaching of the cross has never been popular. It offended the Romans, because they used the cross only to punish barbarians, slaves, or members of a conquered nation. The cross was a symbol of their contempt for non-Romans. The same preaching also offended the Greeks. They worshipped beauty, and nothing is uglier than crucifixion. Likewise, the Jews found this preaching repugnant, for their law had taught them, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."

What is your view of the cross? Do you see it as disgusting? My friend, do not let human ways of thinking blind you to its true character. The cross is the only foundation of true happiness.


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