Though the arrival of Jesus caught the world somewhat by surprise, He was part of God's eternal plan. We mark His birth because of who He was and what He came to do. We also this day mark His death, because that was the fulfillment of His purpose. As the Christmas carol says, "Come, Desire of nations, come! Fix in us Thy humble home: Rise, the woman's conquering seed, bruise in us the serpent's head; Adam's likeness now efface, stamp thine image in its place: second Adam from above, reinstate us in thy love." This great task was accomplished not at Bethlehem, but at Calvary. And so we would remember that, too, this Christmas season.
When Jesus was presented
in the temple, He was met by Simeon, a devout man who had been waiting
for the Messiah. Simeon blessed the child, but added some very discouraging
words. He said, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising
again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoke against; (yea,
a sword shall pierce through thy own soul, also; that the thoughts of many
hearts may be revealed." Even at this early moment, we see the destiny
of Jesus. We see that He was to walk the road of suffering and death.
And we also see that because of His sufferings, the thoughts of many may
be revealed. That s what happened at the cross, and that's what happens
as we remember the cross around the Lord's table.
The Christmas flower, the poinsettia, is a member of the same family as a plant called the crown of thorns. This reminds us that Christmas is related to Good Friday, that the baby Jesus became our Savior and Redeemer through His suffering on the cross. Let us not forget the crown of thorns as we gaze at the poinsettias.
Should we be surprised that the babe of Bethlehem was destined to die a death at the hands of evil men? Even in Jesus' infancy, He was considered threat enough for Herod to attempt to take His life. Herod did not succeed with his plans because it was not the right time for Jesus to face death. But later Jesus did face death for you and for me. And even for the wicked men who sent Him to the cross.
At Jesus' birth, He was surrounded by ordinary people. All His life, the ordinary people heard Him gladly. In the upper room, He was surrounded by disciples, who were ordinary people. So today as we come around His table, we recognize that it was for ordinary people that Jesus came into the world, and it was for people like us that He died. He takes the ordinary people and makes them extraordinary through the redemption He accomplished on the cross.
No one wants to be sad at Christmas. Yet every Christmas we hear of some family who has a tragedy at this time of year. Even the Christmas story has its own tragedy. We see how Herod, in his vain attempt to put Christ to death, slaughtered the innocent in Bethlehem. So we see joy mingled with sorrow. And today as we come around the table, we have joy mingled with sorrow.
Many of the Jews expected their Messiah to come with a flaming sword to battle against their foes. Instead, God came down to earth with a rattle in His hand. Still, He did come to do battle, to battle against Satan and sin.
God is always surprising
us. Just as He surprised us by coming into the world as a baby, He
surprised us by winning the victory through death on the cross. The
victory was accomplished, and that is what we celebrate as we come around
the Lord's table.