Monday, December 25, 2006


The most beautiful images in the history of all the world stand in what seem to be polar opposition. The first is of a small child, born in what was most likely a small limestone cave that an innkeeper used for a stable, resting in the food trough for the animals kept there. Shepherds worshiped and angels sang of the birth of God Almighty as a helpless child into this world of fallen man. Despite the difficulty of it, there was a sublime glory and beauty to it that defied all understanding of man. Even now, two millennia later, with the story so firmly engrained in our minds that we sometimes have difficulty grasping it with the proper degree of awe, there is something unfathomably and wondrously compelling in the notion of the infinite power of divinity contained in an infant child.

Equally compelling - but disturbing in its darkness and seeming hopelessness - is the perfect inversion of this moment, a little over thirty years later. A man hangs naked, beaten to a bloody pulp, the flesh on his back so ravaged by a whip that bone and muscle show through. On his head is a crown of cruelly twisted thorns biting deep into his flesh. Nails pierce his wrists and his feet, holding him to a tall wooden cross, driven into the crowd and holding him above all the surrounding world - holding his shame, his humiliation, his pain raised up for all to see. Beside him hang two convicted criminals; he is guiltless of all but daring to speak the truth. He is the greatest radical that has ever lived. He is the only man who dared to obey utterly and completely. He is dying. His friends have deserted him. His God - His Father - His self - has been torn away; he is now sundered from his very being.

As incomprehensible as the first image may be, the second far surpasses it. The wonder of God's becoming man and entering our world to walk alongside us is far outstripped by the sheer impossibility of God sundering Himself from Himself and dying in every way possible - emotionally, physically, and spiritually - so that we might live.

This kind of perfect sacrifice demands our all. There is no room for laxity, for carelessness. There is no room for lazy living. There is no room for selfishness. There is no room for comfortable existence. The manger and the cross will not allow it.

What it will allow is -

a broken heart
a contrite spirit
a servant's attitude
a willingness to suffer
a life dedicated to proclaiming this good news to the nations

Our hearts ought to break daily at the price that has been paid for us, and instead we take it for granted. How easily we grow cold and comfortable in our walks; how easily we take for granted this salvation and forget the price that was paid for it; how easily we lose sight of those who are still lost, who are still desperately crying out for a Savior who has come!

People are dying, and we sit comfortably, sad because we did not get the gifts we wanted or happy because we did. We live as though the Gospel is a great story. We live as though we have no responsibility, as though Christ's work in our lives is enough, as if we are satisfied with this existence so long as our own salvation is secured. Perhaps we are. If so, we deserve every condemnation that has been heaped upon us. If we are lukewarm, we deserve to be spat out. The kingdom of God will not be advanced by our sitting on our laurels and resting in our own security. Our own lives are meaningless if not dedicated to the purpose of the manger, to the purpose of the cross. If we are not proclaiming this message with our lives and with our words every day - if we are not dedicating ourselves to holiness because of our love of God and our love of His people and our love of all those who are dying in this world - then of what avail is our faith? Faith without works is dead! Get up! Wake up! The price has been paid, the blood shed, and we wait! GO! Live, love, proclaim... the manger and the cross demand our obedience. God Almighty - the babe in the manger, the man on the cross - and the resurrected King of Glory - deserve our lives given over utterly.

The Savior came. He was born. He lived. He died. He lives. And He is calling us. Will we surrender our all, give up all that we have to follow Him and proclaim His victory and His salvation and His love?

Merry Christ-mas.


  1. I really liked your post. God Bless!

  2. Interesting post.

    I usually do not invote folks to come see my blog, but this post seems to be something I was trying to communicate in a painting that I did for my church last Sunday durinng the services.

    You spoke of two images... and I combined them in that painting.

    God bless! Happy new year.

  3. Thank have no idea how good it is to know that I'm not the only one that feels like that.


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