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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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The Manger and The Cross

Posted by admin in December 10th, 2019
Published in Uncategorized

Recently I was reading an article by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In it, Bonhoeffer makes a statement that shook me to the core,

“For the great and powerful of this world, there are only two places in which their courage fails them…These are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ. No powerful person dares approach the manger, and this even included King Herod. For this is where thrones shake, the mighty fall, the prominent perish, because God is with the lowly…Before the young maiden, before the manger of Christ, before God in lowliness, the powerful come to naught…” God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas (Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

The manger and the cross. The words jumped off the page and hit me like a hammer! The two most powerful images or places in the history of humankind; the two most anointed and significant events in all the world; the two symbols of humanity’s only way to salvation – the virgin birth of a poor infant born in a barn and the horrific death of a man on a trash heap between two criminals. Scandalous. Ridiculous. Absolutely insane and yet it is through the manger and the cross that God saves the human race. It is through the weak things of this world that God confounds the strong—through the foolish things that He perplexes the wise.

“Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful,” (I Corinthians 1:27, NLT).

Christmas isn’t about gifts (in fact, gifts weren’t part of Christmas until the late 1800s). Christmas isn’t about decorations, parties, hospitality, or even caroling. Not really. Christmas is about God the Father, Creator of all the universe, sending His Son in human frailty to be both God and Man on earth to cure the human race of all that sickens and destroys the human soul. Christmas is the story of Jesus and His willingness to be born in human flesh to illustrate for all of us that through Him we can truly love and honor God the Father and be forgiven of our sins. “There is salvation in no one else but Jesus. God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12).

Jesus. The gift of God to all humankind! Jesus. The Savior of the world. This, and this alone is the message and purpose of celebrating Christmas. The manger is the place God chose—lowly, humble, insignificant to most, and a very unlikely place for the King of kings and the Lord of lords!

John 10:10 describes the enemy of our souls as one whose only purpose is to kill, steal, and destroy. And through materialism, greed, superficiality, consumerism, and constant distractions, the enemy has stolen for most of us the True meaning of Christmas and the Real message of this season. Christmas is about Jesus and His birth. Nothing else.

Of course we’ve seen how the enemy has stolen Easter as well. Bunnies, chocolate eggs, new clothes, diluting the message of the Cross by combining it with human traditions. The Cross where Jesus paid the ultimate price and died for our sins though He was perfect and blameless in every way. His shedding of blood and His suffering on that old wooden Cross in shame and pain and without guilt–all eclipsed by Easter baskets, egg hunts, and lovely pastel colors.

The Manger and the Cross are the two most important and significant symbols for all of humankind, the symbols of God’s only salvation for us all, often forgotten and often neglected. They seem so illogical for the most powerful force ever known and yet they are God’s choice. And once again we see that God’s ways are not our own.

At this time in my life, it may sound odd, but I am working very hard and asking the Holy Spirit to help me bring Jesus back into Christmas and to focus on Him this season. The Savior of the World, the Hope of all humanity, He alone has the words of Eternal Life.

“And there were shepherds residing in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Just then, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people: Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’

“And suddenly there appeared with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all people on whom His favor rests!’

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’

“So, they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the Baby, who was lying in the manger. After they had seen the Child, they spread the message they had received about Him. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, which was just as the angel had told them.” (Luke 2: 8-20)

Peace, and Merry CHRISTmas!

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