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.

Journey to the Manger: Wise Men and Herod

Jackson works on his Journey to the Manger color by number of the Wise Men.

Jackson works on his Journey to the Manger color by number of the Wise Men.

Today, we went with the Wise Men to talk with King Herod on our Journey to the Manger.

When the Wise Men arrived in Judea, they went to the epicenter of the Jewish religion: Jerusalem. There they had an encounter with King Herod, who apparently did not know the King of the Jews had been born, and was not excited about the news. Herod inquired of the Jewish scribes, who told him Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the Messiah.

In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall become a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

– Matthew 2:5-6

Wise Men talk with Herod

Wise Men talk with Herod

The Wise Men had followed the leading of God Almighty to make their trek across the desert to see the newborn King. The Star God had placed in the sky served as their compass. They trusted God’s divine guidance to bring them into the Son of God’s presence. So when King Herod tried to pull a fast one on them and trick them into giving over the child’s location to end the threat to his reign, the Wise Men trusted God again. Warned in a dream given by God, the Wise Men returned home another way. The Magi proved they truly were wise by following God’s word above human authority.

Wisdom was desperately needed in the time Jesus entered as a baby, and in our day, too. Wisdom can only be found in God, in listening for His voice and following His command. The Wise Men understood that a God who could shape and create the stars deserved their attention and worship. God is worthy of our trust and our obedience.


Click here to learn more about celebrating Advent with your family this Christmas, including access to a Scripture plan, free downloads and activity ideas. For more on Journey to the Manger, an advent experience from Focus on the Family, visit the Thriving Family website.