If you want to know how much God loves us, look in the manger. If you want to see how much God hates sin, look at the cross.
Joy Williams is a celebrated Christian singer/songwriter. She released Here with Us in 2005. Some how, some way, I had never heard it until last year. The video above combines her song with images from The Nativity and the mini-series Jesus of Nazareth. Christ coming into the world is cause for celebration, but don’t loose sight of the fact that… he came to die.
Emmanuel, one of the many titles for Jesus, means God with us. When we could not come into God’s presence he came into ours. He came looking for us when we did not even know we were lost. We see the wise men in the film offering their gifts; one of the gifts is myrrh, used in the first century to anoint the dead. There it is, foreshadowing, thrown right into the celebration of his birth. Mary found favor among women and was blessed by the Holy Spirit with God’s own Son. She would not only outlive her son, but see him scourged and then crucified. Jesus took the form of a servant (Philippians 2) and was obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. He explained to his own followers that he humbled himself so that God could lift him up. He will return not as a babe in a manger, but as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Why be born to die? Why suffer rejection, pain, loss, hunger, thirst, then be spat upon, whipped, and nailed to the tree? Because God hates sin. The wages of sin is death. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. The blood of sheep and birds was not sufficient, and the Law only made humanity more guilty. What was required was an all sufficient sacrifice. We are able to receive the just reward for the life of righteousness that Jesus live. And in exchange, he received our penalty. The one that did not know sin became sin for our sake. His death on the cross was not some unfortunate tragedy; it was God’s plan of salvation. After his death and burial he defeated death, hell and the grave. He was not merely resurrected but he is the resurrection. No one took his life. He had the power to lay it down and the power to take it up again. We recognize Christmas day, the moment of the incarnation, as the fulfillment of dozens of Old Testament prophesies. Celebrating his birth bolsters our faith that God is faithful and just concerning his promises. Christ came, and will come again. He sits now at the Father’s right hand, and ever lives to make intercession.
We are a people fallen from God’s grace, and live in a world affected by the curse. Into such a world God sent his only Son. God’s wrath was poured out on sin AND we are brought into his presence by the redeeming life and death of Jesus. It is a shame that so many people miss it. They think Jesus was a wise teacher, a prophet, or a nice man that helped pour people and taught us not to judge others. Some of course thought he was a lunatic and/or a blasphemer, and many today think he was a reasonable guy that never claimed to be the Son of God. It is the greatest love story (or any type of story) that the world has ever known, but to the vast majority of people it’s just about a baby in a manger. God is in that manger. He spoke all that is into existence, but then had to learn to speak. Before Jesus walked on water he had to learn… to walk. Then on the cross: the same God that created water itself hung on the cross and spoke the words “I thirst.” He prayed for the very ones that were crucifying him. That is the measure of his resolve; he came not to condemn the world but that through him the world might be saved.
Look at the video again. The manger; the cross. He is not a god made of wood or clay with ears that do not hear and feet that do not move. He is here with us.