“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” Galatians 4:4-5 (NIV)
Without the manger there is no cross, and without the cross there is no salvation.
His birth is the beginning of His journey to Calvary. The cross was no accident, for the manger anticipates the cross: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Even the name Jesus designates His vocation; Jesus is equivalent to the term Joshua, meaning “God saves” (Matthew 1:21). The cross was our NO! to God yet it was His YES! to us. Most people believe Jesus was born and even believe He died on the cross. But that is of no benefit unless one accepts the message of the gospel that Jesus died for our sins and there is no other way to God except the way Jesus provided for us (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; John 3:16; 14:6).
To faithfully celebrate Christmas, we must be mindful that His birth points to the cross and all that it entails. We have eternal life and victory that only comes from Christ and His death (1 John 5:5). But to see victory in the humiliating death of Jesus is counterintuitive to today’s thinking. Martin Luther reminds us that we will find the essence of who God is in the death of His Son—not the grandeur of nature. We can easily satisfy ourselves by thinking that Christmas is all about the birth of a baby, all the while avoiding the sobering truth that the little hands which would have grasped Mary’s finger would someday be the hands that took the nails for our sin.
Although the title “redeemer” is never used directly of Jesus in the New Testament, redemption is what He accomplished on the cross. He purchased our freedom from sin and God’s wrath, and purified us so that we would be His “very own” (Titus 2:14). In God’s sovereignty He sent His Son into the world, born of woman, growing and learning for thirty some years, only to die on a cross as a common criminal. The marvelous grace lavished upon those who call on the Name of Christ should come to mind when we celebrate Advent and the reality of our salvation.
Prayer: Dear Lord, may our prayer reflect the words of a favorite Christmas hymn: “Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light, Radiant beams from thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord at thy birth.”
Amen and amen!
submitted by Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion