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: King Herod

During our Give and Take game, both kids tried to "take" the rope, and ended up frustrated (just like we do when we are selfish and do not think of others).

During our Give and Take game, both kids tried to “take” the rope, and ended up getting nowhere (just like we do when we are selfish and do not think of others).

Today we learned about King Herod on our Journey to the Manger.

King Herod

King Herod

King Herod was a mean man. Desperate to keep his power, Herod constantly looked to place himself ahead of others, with whatever means necessary. When wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem looking to worship the King of the Jews, Herod tried to squash this new threat to his preeminence by lying.

Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find Him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship Him.”

– Matthew 2:7-8

King Herod’s intentions were to kill the child the wise men were seeking. In fact, after Herod realized the wise men weren’t going to return to tell him the location of the child, he sent soldiers to murder every baby age two and under in Bethlehem to make sure this so-called “King of the Jews” would not rise up against him.

A sure-fire way to destroy Christmas is to make it all about you. King Herod was only concerned with himself, leaving destruction and great sorrow in his path. On the other hand, Jesus came to give peace and new life. Often as Christmas approaches, we have a tendency to focus on “what we’re getting” instead of “what we’re giving”. This can leave us feeling empty and unhappy.

Today, we participated in a “Give and Take” illustration. Jackson and Lauren each held the ends of a rope. When they both tried to “take”, they fought against one other to pull the rope their way. Neither was happy, and both were provoked. Then, when one “gave” and the other “took”, it had the potential to make one stumble (we made sure to have pillows behind us as we experimented!) Finally, when both “gave”, it brought them together.

Christmas is about giving: God gave us His One and Only Son. We, too, can offer others the hope and love of Jesus. We can share gifts to show we care about others. When Christians give, it not only unifies us, it brings us closer to God’s heart.

When we choose to give it brings us closer to each other, and to our Heavenly Father.

When we choose to give it brings us closer to each other, and to our Heavenly Father.

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.