Don't Leave Him in the Manger!
Don't Forget Who Jesus Truly Is
Every year you hear it. Some group or person becomes offended because they don't believe there should be a nativity scene placed on public property. And every year Christians fight for their freedom of religious expression. However, while we continue this battle there is an even greater problem that we face. That is the problem of forgetting who that babe in the manger was, who graced our earth more than 2000 years ago. We want to leave that child in the manger, while we go about our lives as if His coming into this earth hasn't changed a thing.
Oh, it is a beautiful story, God sending His one and only Son into this world to be born in a lowly animal's feeding trough. What utter condescension for Him who created the universe, and the little blue ball called earth, to come down and become one of us, and for the first time experience all the limitations of humanity.
As one person once put it: " God, stepped out of eternity and into time." However, if that manger is all there is to the Christmas story, then it would be of little significance for us and for the dilemma of sin that has caused us to be separated from the living God.
I. The Beginning of the Story: Eternity Past
Contrary to the beliefs of many, the story of the child didn't begin in Bethlehem. It started somewhere in eternity past, even before the creation of this universe, before the existence of time, when the Holy Trinity devised a plan that we who are sinners, should become holy and blameless in His sight (Ephesians 1:4). It was then that Jesus was chosen to come to this earth as the spotless Lamb of God. The book of Revelation calls Him "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).
We see the Gospel revealed for the first time in Genesis 3:15 when, after Adam sinned, God revealed what He would do to remedy the situation. He tells the great Serpent, the Devil: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." God further illustrates Jesus' future sacrifice when He makes clothing for Adam and Eve. He uses the skin of animals. This was the first blood sacrifice, and a picture of the shedding of the blood of the spotless Lamb, Jesus Christ.
So, we see that our Lord was not merely to be born into this sinful world to be a great example of how we should live. He was literally born to die, that man, dead in trespasses and sins, might live and be reunited with a Holy God. He was Emanuel; God with us, to die for us in our place.
II. The Story Includes Jesus' Being Made Sin
If Jesus had just entered this earth, lived a perfect life, and died of old age, then the story of the nativity would just be an interesting tale. But Jesus came as our substitute. We deserve to die and to be separated from God for eternity. However, Jesus was born without sin, lived without sin for around 33 years, and died on a cruel Roman cross. Scripture teaches that: "God made Him, who had no sin, to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (II Corinthians 5:21).
God, the Father is holy and cannot look upon sin. And being the perfect judge He couldn't let sin go unpunished. However, He loved us more and wanted to save us. So He placed upon His perfect son, the sin of the world. Jesus paid our sins in full if we would but accept His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary on our behalf.
And when Jesus took our sins, He gave us His perfect righteousness. And now when God the Father looks upon us, all He sees is that we are as righteous as His dearly loved Son. This is the beauty of the cross and our Lord's death. It is the greatest love story of all time!
III. The Story Continues With the Resurrection
In I Corinthians 15:12-22 Paul has this to say about the importance of the resurrection to the story of the nativity:
"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive."
The truth is that if Jesus had not been raised from the dead, then our lives would be futile and hopeless. The resurrection is crucial to the nativity story.
IV. The Story Leads to Jesus' Exaltation
When we think of the baby in Bethlehem, his story is not finished when He is raised from the dead. He then leaves the earth. He ascended back up to Heaven and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. The right hand is the place of honor. Scripture teaches us in Philippians 2:9-11 that:
"Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
But that's not all either! He's coming again!
V. The Story Concludes With His Return
Recently I saw a photo on Facebook of a very misinformed man who was holding up a sign that read: "If Jesus returns, kill Him again!" What this man failed to realize is that Jesus' self-imposed humility on the His first visit to earth is not going to be the way He will be at His return.
When Jesus comes back to this earth, He will no longer be a lowly baby in a manger. Nor will anyone be able to kill Him. He will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). He will come to judge the living and the dead. And everyone will have to give account to Him (I Peter 4:5). He will right all wrongs and make all things new. Ultimately Jesus will create a New Heaven and a New earth, wherein dwells righteousness (Revelation 21). And those who have been made whole, through faith in His name will dwell with Him for eternity. What a glorious conclusion to a wonderful story!
Mary Did You Know?
So the next time you hear about the baby Jesus, don't miss the significance of the story. For if you leave Christ in the manger, you've missed the whole purpose of God becoming flesh. The late radio commentator, Paul Harvey, used to tell true stories that kept us in suspense until the end, and then he would say: "And now you know the rest of the story." Well, now you know the rest of the story of Christmas. Don't leave this earth without accepting Jesus' sacrifice for your sins!
© 2013 Jeff Shirley