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The cross and the manger

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It is four days after Christmas. I am late with my annual Christmas articles that celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ over two thousand years ago and the wonder of that Holy Night. Most of us have already unwrapped gifts, attended festivals (i.e. "parties") with family, friends and some of us, with co-workers. The children hardly able to go to sleep waiting for Christmas to come has passed. The stores and malls open at convenient hours so that shoppers can pick up that perfect gift has too almost gone away; and feasts of food that has everyone tipping the weight scale of an extra pound or two will hopefully come to an end with the coming New Year and the resolutions so many people make and never keep.

Yes, Christmas is a wonderful season. Like no other season, many of us experience the material blessings of God; some of us may not have received any gifts under a tree or in a stocking, but are alive, breathing, living and surviving by God's grace. Christmas is so much more than just the material blessings. I am reminded again this year that the true blessing of Christmas is knowing “The Gift called Jesus”. The Christmas story is really “the good news”, also called "The Gospel" of Jesus Christ that the angel told the shepherds watching their flocks by night. The good news is that Jesus, The Son of God came to earth to “save people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21. Please read Matthew 1: 18-25 here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%201:18-25. This sacrificial love gift of God in the person of His Son, Jesus is the only significance of celebrating the Christmas season. A baby born to die as a man for my sins and yours – to become a living and Holy atonement to take away the sins of the world is the “good news” that God gives to the world.

My thoughts on the Christmas story were deepened not by happenstance. My pastor started a teaching this Advent season on the "names of Jesus". By God's grace I was asked to participate in a wonderful "Christmas" play called "The Gift" at my church. The two events happening simultaneously gave me a deeper revelation of this great love that the God of the universe, the earth, the heavens, the skies and the seas, everything has for the ones He created. Besides meeting new people at my church and enjoying the great fellowship of Christian love, I experienced a deeper understanding of why you cannot have a manger in your Christmas play without a cross.
The “Gift” Christmas play included all of the scenes of scripture describing Jesus' earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, the announcement of His birth and His coming to “a little town of Bethlehem”. The wise men were there bringing gifts. Real newborn babies were on stage playing Jesus as “Mary” sang a song to proclaim “all is well”. The narrator also an actor moved the story of Jesus' birth, escape to Eygpt and becoming a grown man beginning His ministry of sharing His good news of God's Kingdom to all who would listen. The miracle of turning water to wine, healing blind and crippled people and even standing up to a mob who wanted to stone a woman to death were all captured on stage.

The scenes of this Christmas play then fast forwards through song and narration to Jesus sitting with His disciples eating the Last Supper, the communion meal that believer's of Jesus Christ eat to remember His death on the cross. The audience sees Jesus praying to God His Father in a garden before He was betrayed by a friend. Then the final hush over the audience when The Son of God, also known as The Son of Man is crucified on the cross between the crosses of two thieves – the heartbreak of seeing an innocent man put to death becomes a reality. His purpose for coming to earth as a baby is now made real culminating to the shedding of His blood by death on the cross. Finally, a glorious redemption sealed, He is raised from the dead (also called The Resurrection) in three days, and seen by His followers before He returns back to Heaven. “Death is swallowed up in victory” I Corinthians 15:54 and Isaiah 25:8, The Holy Bible. Another prophecy foretold fulfilled. Like no other Christmas play, this plays tells the story good news of why the Babe came....He came to save us from death, eternal separation from God and a life of misery and toil without His grace.

This is the entire Christmas story – the good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through many generations, God's plan was being foretold and then finally fulfilled that Bethlehem night. This is why Christmas is so important. Jesus was born by The Holy Spirit to die for us. A perfectly sinless human was born and died and was able to fully provide salvation to many sinners who believe in His name. Listen to what Philippians 2:6-8 says in The Good News Translation: “Although he was in the form of God and equal with God, he did not take advantage of this equality. Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant, by becoming like other humans, by having a human appearance, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, death on a cross.” The baby born in a manger was a Savior for Sinners. A wooden manger. A wooden cross. An innocent baby. An innocent man. Fully God and fully man. Born of The Holy Spirit of God. God incarnate. Son of God. Son of Man. Immanuel. Christ The Lord. King of Kings. Jesus.

What will you do with Jesus the baby born in Bethlehem? Now that Christmas is over, will you consider the things God has told us about His Son and His great plan to save you? What will you decide about Jesus? You can read God's Word, His Record, His Testimony yourself about His Son Jesus. This story like no other story is the only ETERNAL good news for your soul. There is no other reason to celebrate Christmas if you do not know the baby who became a man to die for your sins. That's the gift of Christmas. That's the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is the Gift God sent to us. “The gift of God is eternal life”. “That life is in His Son” (Romans 6:23, http://biblehub.com/romans/6-23.htm and 1 John 5: 11-12, http://biblehub.com/1_john/5-11.htm.

Receive Jesus Christ today as your personal Lord and Savior. He will not in no wise cast you out. He promised.

To God the Father and to His Son, Jesus the Christ, both Lord and King of Kings, be all the glory and honor due Him forever for His special gift...Thank you Lord.

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