A Cradle, Cross, and Crown: Christmas Gifts from Heaven

The Original Christmas Message

Christmas, the best time of year!

A Cradle, Cross, and Crown: Christmas Gifts from Heaven

For as many of you, having been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise (God’s Covenant). Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he differs in no way from a slave, though he is the owner of everything. Instead, he is under guardians and stewards until the time set by his father. In the same way, we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elemental forces of the world. But when the completion of the time came, God sent His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying Abba, Father! So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. But in the past, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved to things that by nature are not gods. But now, since you know God, or rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and bankrupt elemental forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again? You observe special days, months, seasons, and years. I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted. Galatians 4:1-11

The origin of Christmas: Just over 2000 years ago, on this day – 2 days before Jesus was born – a young girl, in the fullness of her time to give birth to her child, and her husband, in the midst of a long, endured an uphill journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a trip of 100 miles or so. The way was difficult, but there was little to fear along the way since Roman legions were stationed throughout the land to keep the peace, and to police the highways against robbers and thieves. However, imagine the fear of a young teenage girl expecting her first child, having to handle the long walk, knowing any day she would give birth to what God had promised was to be the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah – the Christ.

Their journey was orchestrated by God through history. Caesar Augustus wanted to take a census registration for tax purposes, and King Herod and the Roman governor decided to have everyone to register in their family hometown, which was Bethlehem for both Mary and Joseph. Both of them, though common people of the day, had royal blood in their veins. They both were from the lineage of King David, who was also from Bethlehem. It is also interesting to note, Bethlehem means “house of bread”, and it is there God had chosen long before that His Son, the Messiah would be born there – and during in His ministry, He would proclaim that He is the Bread of Life!

Why did God choose to become incarnate through the womb of a woman as a defenseless newborn child? Why not just arrive into history as a manifestation of God before men? How would a cradle serve as an appropriate throne for the promised Prince of Peace? There would be no royal processions with heralds announcing their arrival into Bethlehem. Rather, God chose to have the mother of His Son walk in the footsteps of common man, sharing the same dust along the way with her husband, Joseph, whom God had hand-picked to be the step-father to His Son. However, through the drudgery of the journey, the echoes of Gabriel’s (God’s messenger angel) message to both Mary and Joseph kept them at peace. Mary certainly would have sensed that God would not have His Son born at just any time, but rather at His chosen, right time – in a place selected for His Son to be born – of God’s choosing, not man’s.

The people had long-awaited the arrival of the Messiah, but they were looking in all the wrong places. They sought a royal birth in a royal palace to a royal family. They expected a worldly prince to come and be born, and to rise up to become the Savior King of His people. They looked to a Savior who would carry a sword and ride a great stead into battle against the enemies that ruled over them. But, God had another plan, because beyond the Cradle there would have to be a Cross to bear long before the Crown could be worn and He assume His rightful place as the King of kings, Lord of Lords, the Savior of the World. Any one aspect without the other would not provide a complete picture of who Christ was: the Son of God.

The Cradle represented the incarnation of God – Jesus was born of a woman and became a man to share God’s love message to mankind.

The Cross represented the presentation of God of the perfect, only sacrifice that would save men from his sinful nature. No sacrifice presented by man could ever live up to standards of holiness that God demanded – therefore, God offered His own Son, perfect as God is perfect to make the sacrifice acceptable to God, according to the Covenant that God made with Abraham centuries before.

Likewise, the Crown represented the coronation of God, which symbolized the source of power and authority that no kingdom or empire on earth could overcome. Despite their best efforts, even the Great King Herod could stop His birth; not even the Roman Empire and its legions could prevent Christ from fulfilling His purpose – they even were unknowing participants and pawns of God’s divine plan for man.

Christ through His death and resurrection ascended to the right hand of the Father as our perfect advocate, so that our sinful life would not have to face the divine judgment of God. If we were to stand before God on our judgment day all alone, having to present our life to Him and give our own account for all we did or failed to do, then we would have no hope. But, through the Cradle, Cross, and Crown stages of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, we can know by faith that our sins are forgiven, and He will be there when we stand in judgment before God and will be welcomed as joint heirs into His kingdom.

When we think about the next few days as each of us prepares for Christmas, consider how the story might have turned out if Mary and Joseph were not obedient to God, and their storied-faith in His promises had wavered. Would they have traveled on that difficult journey knowing Mary was about to give birth? But their story unfolded with God mounted upon the wings of history dispatching heavenly and worldly heralds onto the stage announcing the birth of a child that would reshape the world…

More coming about the night before His birth in Bethlehem.

My daily prayer: Lord Jesus, it is in Your holy name that we can now enter into the throne of grace in our prayers, and share our heartfelt praises and petitions before God. It is through Your name that we know we have the Spirit of God residing within us to communicate our utterances to a Holy, Almighty Creator God. My faith is anchored in You, Your birth, Your death, and Your Resurrection – all orchestrated by God so that we may walk in the newness of life as He intended since Creation. Thank You, my Lord, and my Savior… Amen.

Victory Requires You Run the Race

We Never Run the Race Alone when We Train Daily with the Master.

A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Grief is better than laughter, for when a face is sad, a heart may be glad. The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in a house of pleasure. Eccl 7:1-4 (HCSB)

Being told you have a lot of promise to run the race doesn’t make it so. Being told you come from a great family does guarantee victory in the race either. Until we have competed in life and put forth the effort, we have not earned the right to claim honor for our name, nor the victory for a race we have not run.

Success and fame are not something you can claim – they must be earned and are received. Success and fame arrive after the crown has been placed upon you by those you have impacted and gained favor from during the race of life because no one attains success or fame while still at the start line of the race. What accomplishment can you claim before the race has even begun? You may certainly look good in your fancy track shoes and your uniform may make you look like a winner, but it is in the running of the race that earns the accolades once you cross the finish line.

The Teacher in this passage clearly makes the point that one’s lifetime of achievements become worth remembering after the results of the race are posted, and thus far more valuable and rewarding than the applause and back-slapping during the race.

I have been a part of many funerals that have turned into a celebration of memories, a genuine testimony of a person’s positive impact on the lives of others. From another perspective, how sad would it be if no one attended your funeral? The tragedy in the Christmas Carol story is that Ebeneezer Scrooge gets to foresee that without a change in his miserly, lonely ways, no one will mourn his death. No one will miss him after he is gone except as the brunt of jokes and ridicule. What a legacy of a life wasted on selfish ambition and values that took from others and never shared with others. Scrooge became too enamored by his own idea of success and fame, he forgot to even compete in the race. He never lined up at the starting line. He chose only to compete with himself.

Consider which stage of the race you are running in this lifetime? Remember, the race of life is a marathon, not a sprint. In fact, the course to run may not be clearly marked, but there will be plenty of others running the course with you. At every crossroad during the race, your life can be affected for good or for bad by the choices you make, so choose wisely. Just remember, there’s never a shortcut to the finish line. A moment to consult God’s will, ways and wisdom is always a good investment to avoid disastrous, hasty choices. And, never trust the crowd to always choose wisely either, because most often the crowd are like sheep and follow the herd, only to learn they have blindly been drawn down the hazardous and dangerous path at the crossroads.

Run the race that is set before you, knowing someone who loves you more than anyone is standing at the finish line, calling you by name, urging you to not quit and finish strong. He knows the way because he has run the race and knows the challenges and obstacles you will face along the way. But, he also knows the reward at the end! There’s the roar of all who finished the race before you encouraging you toward the finish line. Do not give up or give in, because eternal success and fame adorn the crown waiting for you.

For those, like myself, who are still running their race, there is plenty of encouragement along the journey. You will be encouraged and rewarded by those you have helped along the way as well. Run the race set before you and seek along the way to celebrate life with friends and family until you break the finish line.

Coach

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Words of Wisdom #236-20EC