The Cross in Christmas

Our Christmas season has taken us through incredibly busy weeks, school programs and parties, dance rehearsals and recitals, and church commitments.

But, none of those scheduled appointments makes Christmas, well, Christmas.

As we’ve worked through our annual Christmas Countdown using The Family Book of Advent, one devotion last week brought Christmas into perspective for me in the midst of balancing expectations, making it on time to the next event and struggling with exhaustion.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

– Matthew 2:1-2

This passage of Scripture resonates deeply with me. The wise men recognized a King had been born. They saw His star, in the midst of their important lives, and stopped everything. They decided to leave what they knew to find this King, setting aside their doubts and their fears, and putting their faith into action. For them, worshiping Jesus was worth the sacrifice, worth the journey.

Our glowstick path through the living room

Our glowstick path through the living room

The kids and I considered what we knew about the wise men, their commitment to seeing the King personally and how they gave Him their hearts and treasure in worship. We broke into a few tubes of glowsticks, and made paths through the house for each other, with Jesus figurines from our Nativity sets and the end of the line. Each child made a path for their sibling to follow, just like the wise men looked to the star to find the newborn King.

A few captured moments from our glowstick Nativity adventures

A few captured moments from our glowstick Nativity adventures

Then, we combined all our glowsticks to make a path through the entire living room to the manger of our largest Nativity set. What ended up happening drew us to the Cross in Christmas.

Glowstick after glowstick was laid, and a path was drawn from the stable to the Christmas tree on the opposite side of the room. When the wise men gave Jesus their treasures, they offered gifts to honor who He was and to prepare Him for the journey that lay ahead. Gold testified that He was King, and frankincense that He was Priest and would mediate between God and man. That way would be made through the message of the myrrh, an oil used for embalming, foreshadowing the death necessary for my redemption, and yours.

The glowsticks in the living room marked the way from the manger to the cross, symbolized in the Christmas tree.

Christmas has no meaning without the cross. It’s why He came. God was made flesh to be lifted high, for nails to pierce His hands and feet. The baby in the stable would be the One to purchase my salvation.

The cross is what makes Christmas, Christmas.

Packing up Christmas

The ornaments and Christmas crafts and decorations piled up as I worked to pack it all up.

The ornaments and Christmas crafts and decorations piled up as I worked to put it all away.

On New Year’s Day, I was ready to take down the Christmas tree and pack up the decorations.

For the last several years, I’ve struggled with the after-Christmas letdown. I didn’t want to take down all the special ornaments and lovingly pieced together Christmas crafts the kids made at home and school! The Nativity scene looked so beautiful on my piano, and I loved my mornings curled up on the couch in the dark before the kids woke up, gazing at the lights on the tree. Christmas is my favorite time of year, and it always seems so stark and empty when it all is packed up in a box and stacked up in the garage.

This time around, as I surveyed the house full of Christmas on the first day of 2015, I knew it was time. Without remorse or even a tug at my heart, it all came down to be carefully packed away for next year.

My husband commented out loud that he wondered where his wife had gone! The one that usually waxes sentimental was now on a mission to clean up and move on.

This was a wonderful December, full of family time and precious memories. We participated in an exciting Journey to the Manger every day as we anticipated Jesus’s birthday on Christmas. We attended school programs, dance recitals, church musicals, and even managed to deal with a few bouts of sickness in the midst of it all. We had an amazing day with my extended family at Silver Dollar City, and enjoyed an after-Christmas trip to spend time with my husband’s family. Christmas Day itself was full of joy and wonderful time together!

So why didn’t I feel the same way this year that I usually do when all the festivities and Christmas celebrations come to an end?

Mangers aren’t meant to linger around.

Mary didn’t give birth to her firstborn son in a stable and lay Jesus in a manger because she wanted to…she had to because there was no other place or people who would make room for them. The young couple didn’t stay there long either. They dedicated Jesus in the Temple, and ended up living in a home in Bethlehem. It is there that the Wise Men found Mary and the child and worshiped Him with expensive gifts. After their visit, an angel visited Joseph with instructions to leave Bethlehem immediately for Egypt, sparing Jesus from King Herod’s rage.

Jesus didn’t come to stay cradled in the manger. He came to shake the earth and our hearts when he paid the penalty for our sins on the cross and burst forth from the grave!

Mary and Joseph left the manger, not knowing what awaited them as they held the Son of God in their arms. They would go to Egypt and back, and watch their Son grow in favor with God and men. Mary would see Jesus’s miracles, and the crowds clamoring for a touch and a word from the Savior. They had to move on from the manger to experience the adventure of life with Jesus!

I don’t know what God has in store for me or my family this year. I haven’t written out carefully constructed resolutions or goals, and frankly am not sure what we will eat for dinner tonight. But I know that my best days are ahead of me, as I follow my Jesus!

That’s why I was ready to pack up the decorations, and carry Christmas with me in my heart. My feet are ready to move and my hands are ready to get to work. It’s time to continue this life’s adventure with Jesus!