Summary: This time of year, we get excited and touched by Baby Jesus in a cradle but you can’t separate the cradle from the cross. This gift of Jesus comes with a sacrificial cost. A lot of us understand the cradle but we fail to connect the cradle with the cross.
The Gift with a Cost
Christmas has become the #1 self-focused consumer day in America. It’s so interesting that Good Friday leads into Easter and Black Friday leads us into the Christmas holidays. The church needs to lead a movement of conspiracy to reclaim Christmas from consumerism. and transform this Hallmark, gift crazed image from holly and mistletoe to the reign of the Messiah on earth. Too often we have become insulated by Santa Claus, a white Christmas, family gatherings and exchanging gifts from the heart of God and what’s going on in the world.
Every 4 seconds a child dies from a hunger related cause in the world. Since we started this service, over 415 children have died. What’s amazing is that just the grain we use for grain alcohol, we could feed the world 3 times over. Most people are looking for a jolly, feel good Christmas with a Santa Claus Jesus and 1/4 of the world is just hoping for their next meal. In Africa today, 5,500 kids die every day under the age of five of AIDS. 5,500 men and women will die of AIDS today. We have rampant unemployment, a skyrocketing murder rate, drugs poisoning our society and killing our youth, a public school system which is failing our children and 1/3 of all student will drop out. There are more wars going on right now than ever before in history. This is the world in which the Savior is born.
This time of year, we get excited and touched by Baby Jesus in a cradle but you can’t separate the cradle from the cross. This gift of Jesus comes with a sacrificial cost. A lot of us understand the cradle but we fail to connect the cradle with the cross. Jesus was born so that he might be able to die for our sins. Many of us struggle with the cross at Christmas. The cross is the center of the Christian message of faith. “But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles but to those whom God has called both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Most people get the baby Jesus of the cradle but they don’t get the Messiah of the cross. Why?
Because God delivers this gift in the ordinary. The gift of God is rooted in the ordinary. Verse 2: “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” Is 53:2 Nowhere does this sound like a Messiah or a world leader who was going to change the course of history. When we’re kids we establish a pecking order. Who’s cool and who’s not? Who’s the nerd and who’s the jock? Who’s in and who’s out? Where do you put Jesus in this pecking order? Jesus was assigned to the place of low standing. This is why most people miss the real Messiah. They’re looking for that suave, debonair, good looking, powerful, educated individual who changes a room of people when he walks into it and so they’re missing the true gift of God.
Jesus came from Nazareth which led many to say he can’t be the Messiah because nothing good could ever come out of Nazareth. You see, Nazareth was at the bottom of the pecking order. It was a no good, nothing hamlet filled with uneducated, ill-informed people. That’s like saying nothing good could ever come from Westwego. Or nothing good could ever come out of the Fischer projects. You remember in Luke it talks about the birth of Jesus and Mary in her humble state. The word humble in Greek means low in situation, poor and depressed. So Jesus came from a poor working class background. He lacked formal education and he did not have the credentials or lineage to be the Messiah. Jesus was not the type of person you would be drawn to physically but rather may very well have been someone you turn away from according to Isaiah. He wasn’t in People Magazines 50 Most Beautiful People list or on anybody’s yearbook list of most like to do anything.
When you think about God’s picture of influential or beautiful, Mother Theresa may come to mind. But when you look at her, she is anything but appealing or attention grabbing. She is small in stature, wrinkled and shriveled up and looked years older than she really was. And yet, she was one of the most powerful and influential ambassadors of God in our day. What does this say about what God’s values as influential or beautiful. Jesus said, “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you to be my witnesses.” The power that Jesus is taking about is not one of position, wealth or prestige, it’s the power of Godly influence. The world misses Jesus because they’re looking for the elaborate, wealthy, beautiful and extraordinary when it comes to the Messiah. Here’s the problem: most of us are very ordinary! God’s gift comes to us in the ordinary because Jesus comes to us as we are, to demonstrate to us what God has created us to become. That’s why most people miss Jesus because they’re looking for the extraordinary but Jesus reaches out to us as one of us right where we are.