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: Shepherds

Lauren cradles our baby Jesus in her arms, imagining what it might have been like for the shepherds to see the Messiah.

Lauren cradles our baby Jesus in her arms, imagining what it might have been like for the shepherds to see the Messiah the night he was born.

Today we ran to Bethlehem with the shepherds on our Journey to the Manger.

Shepherds

Shepherds

Once they got over the shock of being face-to-face with an angel, the shepherds soaked in the amazing message of hope and the chorus of praise echoing across the fields. The Savior, the Messiah, was in Bethlehem, just a few miles from where they were, wrapped up and cradled in a manger, of all places. God had chosen them, outcast shepherds, to herald His Son’s birth. What an amazing, unprecedented honor!

The shepherds proved their trust in God Almighty. They left their livelihood resting under the night’s sky, and high-tailed it across the open fields to see with their eyes what they already believed in their hearts.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.

– Luke 2:15-16

The shepherds were committed. Who knows how long they looked for Jesus, but they kept searching until they found the One the angel announced. Tonight, we searched for the baby, too. We each took turns placing a doll somewhere in our great room, and then everyone else had to come search for it.

Faith must be followed by action. The shepherds believed, and then went to worship and then share the Good News with everyone they met. This Christmas, God wants His message of hope to move us to action. He is looking for those willing to relentlessly pursue Christ, no matter the cost.

Christmas isn’t to observe from a distance. Jesus came so we could personally experience His love, and feel His embrace.

Jackson holds the baby after searching for it in our game tonight.

Jackson holds the baby after searching for it in our game tonight.

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.