It is Christmas Eve, we are here once again! You have probably gathered with family or will in the next 24 hours to give one another an abundance of gifts, eat an absurd amount of food, laugh, cry, relax, stress out and celebrate Christmas.
Chances are high that you have heard the story of Christmas: the true reason this day is set aside as a holiday. A holy-day (the origin of the word). Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God was born of a virgin in the “Little town of Bethlehem” on a “Silent Night” when there was no room for them in the inn, so He was born “Away in a manger”.
This is a glorious day. Were it not for the birth of Jesus, we would not have a Savior. The angels announced on the night of Jesus’ birth to a group of shepherds this unprecedented, unfathomable news:
“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
– Luke 2.10-11
Jesus forever changed the world, religion and humanity’s ability to have a relationship with God by coming to Earth.
But not just by coming to Earth.
Jesus’ name has become household for many people, but for some it is only in profanity. Have you ever heard someone swear, “Sweet Baby Jesus”? It can sound almost humerus when you hear someone say that, but we must remember that is it taking the name of Almighty God in vain. However, what catches my attention more is the concept of Jesus as a baby.
Jesus is no longer in the manger.
There is an appeal to keeping Jesus in the manger. He is a precious baby. He is dependent on His mother. He cannot speak or walk or expect anything of us. We can look down on Him, because He is helpless, and we can meet His needs. When Jesus is in the manger, we have the miracle of a virgin giving birth, and a sweet story of a young couple making the best of their situation, shepherds coming to see Him, and a beautiful star marking the location of His birth, but no demand for a response.
But Jesus grew up. The reason His birth is important enough to make it into a holiday is the life that He lived, the death that He died and the resurrection that He preformed to pay the penalty of our sin to offer us eternal salvation.
Eight days after Jesus was born, His name was given to Him and then He was circumcised and brought to the temple to be presented to the Lord. There was a man in Jerusalem who was of the Lord, with the Holy Spirit upon him who had been promised, by God, that he would not die until he saw the Messiah – the one who would save Israel. God led Simeon to the temple at the moment Mary and Joseph brought Jesus in to be presented to God, and he announced that God had fulfilled His word: He had seen the Savior. After blessing God, he said to Mary:
“Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
– Luke 2.34-35
Even though the nation of Israel was looking for a King, a political leader who would set them free from the tyranny of Rome, there were an abundance of prophecies that spoke of Jesus’ death and sacrificial work. Is 64 spoke of Jesus on the cross, and here in this dedicatory blessing, Simeon tells Joseph and Mary that Jesus would cause the rise and fall of many in Israel. Many would reject Him, and to them He was/is a stone of stumbling (1 Peter 2.8) – those would fall because of Him. Many would receive Him, and them He raises up (Eph 2.6)!
Jesus was a sign to be opposed. He Himself spoke of His death, burial and resurrection as the fulfillment of the sign of the prophecy of Jonah in the belly of the fish (Matt 12.39, 16.4). And while His redemptive work on the cross was much more than a sign, His existence and claims were both verbally opposed and called heresy (Matt 26.64-65), but it was also physically opposed when they crucified Him. And it was this crucifixion that pierced Mary’s soul. And this all to the end that the thoughts of many hearts would be revealed.
The thoughts from many hearts may be revealed: Some will rise and some will fall. Some will embrace Jesus and His salvation, and some will reject Him and fall.
Jesus is sweet in a manger. We can all accept Him as a baby, swaddled in cloth and surrounded by animals. We can pity Him. We can coo over Him.
But Jesus is not sweet on the cross. He was crucified for my sins. For your sins. And as the risen savior, He demands a response: Repentance or rejection. Surrender or dispute. Submission or rebellion. And at His return, your heart will be revealed. My heart will be revealed.
Let us not keep Jesus in the manger. Let us know Him as the Savior of the World. The king of kings and Lord of lords. Let us know Him as God, and bow to him in submission and receive His salvation.