The Manger and the Cross

By Kathy Johnston

Have you seen the new kids movie The Star? Adorable and funny cartoon characters telling the story of the Nativity from an animal’s perspective.  I’m sure that many parents and grandparents will take their children to see it this Christmas season.  It looks like a safe, warm, fuzzy story for your kids to see.

Please understand this is not a review or opinion about the movie!  I haven’t even seen it!  I’ve just watched a few of the previews, but it’s bound to be charming and entertaining.  However, as I watched the previews for this movie, something didn’t set right with me.  Is this really what we want our kids to remember about Christmas?

The truth is, there’s nothing funny or cute about that first Christmas Eve.  In fact, staggering, stunning, or earthshattering might be more accurately descriptive!  

When you think about it, that moment was so earthshaking that the angels in heaven could not be silent.  They broke through the barrier between heaven and earth with brilliant light and incredible shouts of joyful singing.   They couldn’t contain their joy and amazement!

It was no silly cartoon to them!  

It was the beginning of what all of history had been leading up to!  There now was hope that mankind would once again have communion with the Everlasting God!  The Deliverer had come!   All things would be made right again through this tiny human.

The King of Kings, the image of the invisible God, the One who is before all things and through which all things were created and are held together, was now contained in the form of a helpless infant.  

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14)

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

So let’s be honest about it, it wasn’t a cute and cuddly scene. Childbirth is a violent, forceful event!  The Son of God, the Savior of the world, was forcefully pushed out of the womb in childbirth just as every other human who has ever been born.  And it wasn’t a charming, little cartoon manger that this newborn was laid in…but a rough and dirty feeding trough.  Donkeys and cows had probably recently been eating out of it, their slobber residue left behind on the straw that he was carefully laid in.

Think about it for a moment: the Ancient of Days…lying in a feeding trough.   Why?

It was for this one purpose…the cross. The manger was not the end of the story but it was leading in one direction: straight to the cross.  And redemption, reconciliation and restoration for all who believe, would come through Christ at the cross.

When we watch cute, little sanitized stories about the first Christmas, we sometimes forget the reality of the state we all were in before the Son of Man broke into the realm of humanity.  We forget that moment in Genesis 3 when sin shattered the perfect creation and communion that mankind shared with God.  And because God is holy and righteous, they no longer could be in his presence.  There was a now a big problem between God and man, a problem of separation caused by sin.  

But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
(Isaiah 59:2)   

Because God is righteous, our sin must be judged. The payment for our sin has to be made.  God can’t “just forgive” because it would go against his own righteousness.  Oh, what a problem this was now for all creation.

But there’s Good News!  Christ’s birth would soon lead to the solution to that problem…the shedding of his blood at the cross.  The payment for sin would be made.  The judgment for our sin would soon be laid on Jesus Christ at the cross.

“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood–to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished…” (Romans 3:25)

Before the manger, there was no hope for redemption.  All of us were destined for destruction…and rightfully so!  When we remember this…it should change the way we look at the story of Christmas!  It should bring us to our knees in worship, in thankfulness and in wonder that He cares and loves his people enough to make a way for us to once again be in right relationship with him.  

Oh, the inconceivable gift that first Christmas brought.  Our hope, our Savior, was born and laid in a manger…for the purpose of the cross.   And the shedding of his blood at the cross was the one thing that could satisfy God’s righteous wrath and restore us back to our Father God once and for all.  Now that is a story worth telling!

So when you watch the movie The Star, remember the redemption that it points to…and tell THAT story to your kiddo’s when you get home!!

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