Purpose of Christmas

Advent Week 3 – Salvation by Grace

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Last week we talked about the first purpose of Christmas, which was to Celebrate the Love that God has for us and how he proved it by giving up so much for us. Big cost, big love. I said there that one of the challenges for us this Christmas season was to live be purposeful about what we do, and to not let all of the extras push the true meaning of Christmas out of our minds. And I believe the way we do that is to purposefully concentrate and bring the Gospel of Jesus to the front of our minds. If we fill up with Him and His story, we leave less room for the other things to crowd it out.

This week we move a little deeper into our reason for celebration by talking about the second purpose of Christmas – Salvation. I really enjoyed our reading in “The Purpose of Christmas” this week because Rick Warren hit the nail on the head. His presentation of the Gospel was spot-on!

Again, it’s based on the words of the Angels to the Shepherds during the Christmas story of Luke 2. This time he pulls out verse 11 which says

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

We Need a Saviour

I really appreciated how Warren presented the Gospel, and his model is a good one for us to follow. Not only when we are talking to others about our faith, but when we are talking to ourselves – when we are reminding ourselves about the true meaning of Christmas; the true meaning of life.

He began by reminding us our desperate desire for a Saviour. When we look around at what we are doing in our lives, we begin to realize that much of what we do – in our own energies – is driven by fear. We want to be free, saved, helped, to have hope.

We have worries about the uncertainty of the future, so we prepare our homes, save our money, buy insurance just in case, get RRSP’s for later. But even they fail us when disaster strikes, the economy collapses, and our health fails us. Then our worries drive us to seek control, put ourselves above others, to hoard and to neglect to share.

We have fear of abandonment, so we sell ourselves short to make friends we shouldn’t have. We buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t really like. We take up bad habits so that we can distract ourselves from our loneliness. Then our fear drives us to push people away so they can’t hurt us, or to give ourselves away so they will stay with us.

In our hearts we deeply long to break this cycle of fear – but we know that we cannot do it ourselves. How do we know? We’ve tried. We’ve built up piles of money and stuff and accomplishments and trophies and still feel hollow. We’ve surrounded ourselves with entertainment, friends, food and drink, and when it quiets down we still feel sad, guilty and broken. We give, and share, and bless, and volunteer, and help, and no matter what we do the needs only grow and the problems are too overwhelming to solve, so we feel like a failure, despondent, disappointed in ourselves and others, and want to give up.

We’ve looked inside and we know that there is something wrong. So we try diets, and self-help books, we get more education, build ourselves up with degrees, skills, careers and awards. Maybe if I go to a good school, maybe if I get a good job, maybe if I get married to the right person, maybe once I have kids, maybe once I get a house, maybe once I get a bigger house, maybe once I retire, maybe once I write that book, join that group, climb that mountain, make that art – maybe then I will feel good about myself, confident in myself, crush this habit that I keep going to, feel like I’m a good person. But it never comes. It never works. God never allows those worldly, human, limited things to be enough. They will never fill the God-shaped-hole He built into us.

Religion Doesn’t Save

Why? Because the problem isn’t physical, or emotional – it’s spiritual. We are trying to use physical things, like pleasure and possessions to solve a spiritual problem. We are trying to use emotional things, like relationships and accomplishments, to solve a spiritual problem.

That’s why there are so many religions – because everyone in the world is trying to solve their spiritual brokenness. The problem is that, for most of them, it’s not working. Why? Because they are trying to fix themselves.

As far as I’m concerned, the most important chapter of the little book we are studying is the one entitled “Jesus Came to Save You By His Grace”. The reason that these other religions don’t fulfill is because they always, always, leave room for doubt. Let me read what Rick Warren said,

“In practically every area of life—school, sports, work—we are judged by our performance.… So, when it comes to spiritual matters, many assume God relates to us with the same performance-based ethic. You may feel that you have to earn God’s approval, deserve God’s love, and work your way to heaven by doing good or trying to be perfect.” (Pg 67)

He then quotes John 6:28-29 to explain that isn’t how God works.

“Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’”

Let me quote a little more of what Rick Warren says,

“Religion is man’s attempt to please God. Grace is God reaching down to man. Every religion boils down to one word: ‘do!’ Do our list of things, and you will earn God’s love…. So God came to earth as Jesus essentially to say: ‘You guys have it all wrong! Of course doing good things matters, but it doesn’t make me love you any more or any less. My love for you is unlimited, unconditional, unchanging, and undeserved. So let me teach you a new concept called grace. You can’t purchase it, work for it, or be good enough to merit it. It’s a gift that will cost me a lot, but it is free to you.’

While religions are based on the word ‘do,’ salvation is based on the word ‘done.’ When Jesus died for you on the cross, he exclaimed, ‘It is finished!’… So, what is finished? The payment for your salvation! The phrase ‘it is finished’ is actually a single word in Hebrew that Jesus cried out.  It was stamped on bills that had been paid off and on prison sentences that had been completed. It meant ‘paid in full!’” (Pg. 68-71)

That’s the solution to our spiritual problem – the Grace of God shown to us through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on our behalf. He did everything. The question is, are we willing to accept the gift of salvation given by grace?

We Can’t Save Ourselves

For many, accepting grace is hard. We want to earn our salvation. We understand the religions that ask us to “do!” because we can then chart and how much we’ve done, and how much we need to do. Then we can boast (Eph 2:9) that we are the ones who saved ourselves, got ourselves to heaven, earned our rewards, and who didn’t need God. We so desperately want to put our confidence in ourselves and earn our way to heaven.

But, as I’ve been saying all along, it doesn’t work, does it? We cannot save ourselves. How do you know when you’ve done enough? If you ask any other religion of the world if they have assurance that they are saved and will achieve whatever the next level is – whether it’s heaven, or nirvana, or whatever – they just don’t know.

I once heard a great teaching on this (by Mark Driscoll). Religion will lead us one of two places – pride or despair. We will either feel proud that we have accomplished so much in our religion that we will feel above others, perhaps even above God since we become the judge of our own goodness and worthiness, or we will feel constant despair because we never know if we’ve done enough, gone far enough, served enough, given enough away, sacrificed enough, to earn God’s love. We just don’t know.

The Apostle Paul talks about this throughout his letters, but there is a section of Philippians 3 that really makes the point. He says in verses 2-3,

“Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh…”

Basically, he’s saying, “Watch out for these evil teachers who are trying to teach you that religion is the way of salvation and tell you to put confidence in your actions.”  Then he does something remarkable in verse 4. He says,

“…though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:”

Paul is about to remind his readers about his own personal testimony. There was never a person so religious, so devout, so deserving of heaven than him. He says he was,

“…circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”

“If you think you have an impressive religious resume, you’ve got nothing on me”, says Paul. “I have followed every law since the moment I was born, am part of the chosen people, have a pure and uncompromised blood line. I was taught by some of the greatest teachers of all time and surpassed them, fought more passionately than anyone against Christians – helping to kill and imprison many because of my zeal. And there is not one person in all of Jerusalem, from the High Priest down that can bring any accusation against me.”

If there is one man who could have had confidence in his flesh, to earn salvation, it was Paul. But he says in the next verses (7-9), “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…”

He tore up his resume and degrees, burned his trophies, and threw his self-confidence into the garbage. It was all worthless. All of his “righteousness” was just “rubbish”. He knew that when He would stand before Jesus on the day he would have to give account for his life, he wouldn’t measure up to the law. He had still broken it in his heart. He was still guilty before God. His righteousness didn’t come from his obedience, because every time he read the Bible, every time he read the 10 Commandments, every time he read the Torah, all he felt was guilt and fear. He still didn’t measure up. He knew it.

And so he traded all of his human accomplishments, for something better, “…faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

Have you Given Up?

Rick Warren asks the very important question, “Have you given up trying to save yourself?” Have you released control of your eternal destiny, and your everyday life, and given it over to Jesus?

I said last week that Jesus taught that the way up is down. He also teaches us that the way to win is to give up. The way to win is to give up. That’s where spiritual healing comes from. That’s the message of Christmas. That’s what we are celebrating. Not that Jesus came to add to our burden, to give us more rules, to lay another burden around our neck, but to save us.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

Good news, of great joy, for all people – a Saviour, a Christ (which means “Messiah”, “Anointed One”, “Chosen One”, “the divinely appointed one”). He wasn’t just another messenger like the prophets of old. He wasn’t just a priest that could bring you close, but not too close, to God. He wasn’t just a king that ruled a human kingdom. He is the Saviour, the Christ, the Lord.

You cannot possibly expect to have the power, ability, authority, resources, intelligence, or supremacy, that Jesus has! Why would you try to save yourself, when you know it isn’t working, and that Jesus Christ stands ready to give you the free gift of His grace?

Saved from So Much

In Luke 4:16-21  it says that after Jesus came back from his time of temptation in the desert, at the very beginning of his ministry, he went into his home church. It says,

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”

All these fears we have, and all the things we do to try to quell them, are destroyed by faith in Jesus as our Saviour. We need good news – He is the ultimate good news. We are poor in spirit, needful of many things – He proclaims to us that He will save us. We are captive by sin, death, addiction, depression – He proclaims liberty and freedom to all who would believe. We are blind, wandering around in the dark, confused about how why we are here, what we must do, and how we are to live – and Jesus gives us light to see. We are oppressed by spiritual forces, by human enemies, by our own habits, weaknesses, dark thoughts and the weight of this world – and Jesus proclaims that we are the ones on whom His favour rests.

This is why, every Christmas, we read the Prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah 9, written hundreds of years before He was born. To help us remember and realize what we have been saved from, and who our Saviour is. The one who came, who died, who rose, who saves, who will come again. Let me read from the Living Translation:

“The people who walk in darkness shall see a great Light—a Light that will shine on all those who live in the land of the shadow of death. For Israel will again be great, filled with joy like that of reapers when the harvesttime has come, and like that of men dividing up the plunder they have won. For God will break the chains that bind his people and the whip that scourges them, just as he did when he destroyed the vast host of the Midianites by Gideon’s little band. In that glorious day of peace there will no longer be the issuing of battle gear; no more the bloodstained uniforms of war; all such will be burned.

For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder. These will be his royal titles: ‘Wonderful,’ ‘Counselor,’ ‘The Mighty God,’ ‘The Everlasting Father,’ ‘The Prince of Peace.’ His ever-expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule with perfect fairness and justice from the throne of his father David. He will bring true justice and peace to all the nations of the world. This is going to happen because the Lord of heaven’s armies has dedicated himself to do it!”

So celebrate this Saviour during this Christmas time. Fill your minds and hearts and homes with the story of Jesus Christ coming at Christmas to save us from so much. We have already experienced so much grace, and we are going to see so much more.

Turn your heart from all the other things in your life that you have set up to save you. Turn your mind away from all the ways that you are trying to save yourself. And turn yourself to Jesus, the only one who can save.

 

The Meaning of the Advent Wreath and Some Inspiration for the Christmas Season

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The Advent Wreath

Over the next month we will be been celebrating the season by using Advent candles to mark the weeks preceding Christmas. I’ve appreciated doing this over the past years because I believe they are a wonderful tool to remind us about what Christmas is all about. The Advent wreath is rich with imagery that reminds us that Christmas is about Jesus – and not just Jesus, the baby in the manger, but the story of Jesus which encompasses the whole gospel.

Some traditions have different colours and meanings, but they all contain a round wreath and candles — sometimes four, sometimes five, and sometimes more. Historically, there is some evidence to suggest the round wreath with candles predates Christianity, and, like many Christmas traditions, was adopted by the church sometime in the Middle Ages.

The wrath is made of evergreens to signify the continuous life we have because of the coming of Jesus. They are shaped in a circle which looks like a Laurel – which was a woven branch worn on as a crown to mark someone as a victor (like in the Olympics) or someone of great honour (like when you see an image of Caesar). So it symbolizes Christ – immortal, victorious, worthy of praise, giving us everlasting life.

On our wreath are five candles, representing the four weeks of advent and the coming of Jesus at Christmas. The smoke rising from them symbolizes our prayers. The light represents Jesus. Three candles are purple, one is pink, and one is white – each have their own meanings, and traditionally, these were the same colours worn by the priest as he presided over Mass.

The Christ candle, which we light on Christmas Eve, is white and at the centre of the wreath. The outside candles represent Hope, Love, Joy and Peace surround the Christ Candle to remind us that all of those things are ultimately and perfectly found in Christ.

Waiting…

What I appreciate most about the season of Advent is that instead of jumping straight into Christmas, our forefathers set aside four weeks where all believers could take some time to practice two important things that we don’t normally do unless we have to: Wait.

As a culture we aren’t very good at waiting. In fact, we’ve almost turned waiting into a dirty word. Consider how the commercial industry begins the Christmas season. While the church is saying it’s time to slow down and reflect, to pause and prepare ourselves for celebrating the amazing story of the coming of Jesus Christ… to take a whole month to get our homes and hearts ready… to meditate over one aspect of the gospel for an entire week – one whole week on the Love of God, another week on what it means that Jesus is the Prince of Peace… everywhere else seems to be ramping us up with as much commercialism, noise, and craziness they can.

The unofficial inauguration the season is called “Black Friday” which is essentially an all-night shopping spree. And even that they couldn’t wait for this year as they pushed the sales back into the week prior!

“Don’t wait… get it now. Don’t even wait until the store opens! Go ahead and camp outside and we’ll open extra early so you can stampede over people to be first to get what you want. Stay up all night on Sunday, sitting in front of your computer so you can get the best of Cyber Monday. And since you probably won’t get what you want for Christmas, and it’s so far away – use this as a day to buy things for yourself!”

Not exactly the “true meaning of Christmas”, is it? Advent is a time where we remember that being first, getting the most, and filling up our homes and credit cards isn’t what Christmas is all about. Advent tells us to stop, listen and prioritize what really matters: our relationships with Jesus and with each other. Those relationships aren’t built at the pace this world wants us to move – true love requires time and patience.

I know my kids are learning this. The tree is up, lights are going on houses, the Christmas music is playing, the schedule is filling up … they know Christmas is coming. The countdown to Christmas Eve – the day they get to open one present after the Candlelight service – has begun. So my encouragement this season is to ask you to practice waiting, practice not getting what you want when you want it. To slow down, evaluate your priorities, reawaken the lost art of waiting.

That’s good practice for building our relationship with God because He doesn’t work on our schedule, but instead invites us to step outside of our agendas and live by His timetable instead. He loves to teach us patience, because He is patient.

I know our temptation is to start ramping up, but let me encourage you to relax this season. To evaluate the motivations, to ask Jesus to set your heart and mind on what matters this year. To worship Jesus and care for people first – before worrying about the trappings of Christmas.

You Are Loved

So, to prepare you for this season, I want to do something a little different and give you something to think and pray about. Next week we are going to start a series based on the book I just gave you where we are going to explore “The Purpose of Christmas”. I’m hoping that we can all read it together – it’s short, interesting, has lots of stories, only has 4 chapters and has lots of pictures, so we should be able to do this – and meditate on the true meaning of Christmas.

But this week I want to whet your appetite by setting up the Christmas season with the reminder that you are loved – first through scripture, and then with a story.

The Amplified Version of John 3:16 reads like this:

“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.”

You are “greatly loved and dearly prized” by your Father in Heaven. So much so that He “gave up” His Son for you – to die in your place so that you could be with Him forever.

Romans 5:1-8 tells us that Jesus came to earth on purpose, to save us, even when we didn’t deserve it. That anyone who would believe that they are a sinner in need of a Saviour, that Jesus Christ died on the cross and then was resurrected on the third day to save them from that sin, would be saved. The free gift of salvation that cost so much. Let me read that to you:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

That’s the love that Jesus has for you. He didn’t just come to save “the world” in general, but you in particular. Not everyone will be saved, but He gives everyone the opportunity to be saved. He created you, designed you, knew you before you were born, picked your parents, your skills and talents, gave you gifts and hopes and dreams, and then invited you into a long-term relationship with Him so He could pour out His love for you, give you a purpose, build you and transform you into the image of Son Jesus Christ.

And nothing can take you away from Him. Romans 8:38-39 says,

“…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In this world, distance and death can separate us from our loved ones… but there is no distance – not even death – that can separate you from the love of God. There is no cavern into which you can fall that He cannot pull you out of, there is no darkness to deep that He cannot shine His light in. No temptation that He will not help you in. No fear He will not give you the strength to overcome. No need He will not fulfill. The world may come against you, and foes may assail you, all of creation may try to push you away from Him, Satan himself may try to drive a wedge between you and Him – but He will never, ever let you go.

The King and His Son

To close this morning I want to tell you a story that illustrates the kind of love God has for you. I heard this illustration used by a pastor named Steve Brown and was moved by it and want to pass it on to you to, hopefully, help you understand Christmas a little better. Please remember that this is an illustration, so it isn’t perfect, but I do hope it’s helpful.

Riikka Jäntti

There once was a king who loved being king. He liked sitting on the throne and making decisions; he liked living in the castle, he liked the symbolic functions of his office, he liked visiting the towns and villages of the kingdom and meeting his subjects, he liked the authority and power because he could use them to help his people.

Not only did the king like being king, but his people throughout the kingdom praised him for ruling so benevolently and wisely. The people knew they could trust their king to do the right thing for them and for the kingdom, and they were right. Because of the king’s wisdom, the kingdom was prosperous and peaceful.

When the king’s son was born, the people put on a great celebration. Now there was an heir! The people knew the king would be a good father and that his son would someday be as great and wise as his father. The king loved his son more than his own life. His greatest joy was to spend time with his son. Each evening after the day’s duties were accomplished, the king would go out into the formal gardens and play with his son. The thought of those times with his son often made the hard task of ruling a little easier. Sometimes when he faced a difficult decision or had to settle a dispute or complete a project, the king would think, when this is over, I can be with my son, and he would smile.

One day the king’s son got lost. It was one of the most tragic days that had ever passed in the kingdom. He didn’t mean to get lost. He loved his father as much as his father loved him.

But one day his father had a particularly busy day and was late for their daily meeting in the castle gardens. So the boy decided to explore…. It happened before he knew it. He was just walking and thinking about his father when, looking up, he found himself in the forest behind the castle. Nothing looked familiar! At first he was calm because his father would come soon and find him, but, as he waited, he began to panic. In his confusion he began to run away from the castle. His clothes caught on broken limbs and tore. A couple of times he fell in mud holes, and once he cut himself on a jagged rock.

Eventually the little boy wandered into one of the villages of the kingdom. To be perfectly honest, by that time he looked more like a beggar than a prince. The little boy would go up behind someone, grab his coat, pull on it and say, “Mister, I’m the king’s son. Would you help me get home?”

“Sure you are, kid.”

“But you don’t understand”, the little boy would say to another. “I got lost, and I can’t find my father.”

Most folks simply ignored the little boy, and those who didn’t ignore him laughed at him. Pretty soon the little boy was forced to beg for pennies just so he could buy bread to keep from starving.

Meanwhile, back at the castle, the king spent a sleepless night looking for his son. He looked everywhere he knew to look, but the boy was nowhere to be found. By morning the king suspected that someone had kidnapped his son and feared that he would never see the boy again.

The king called all his armies together, told them what had happened, and send them into the kingdom looking for his son. He offered great rewards to anyone who could give him information leading to the discovery of his son. But to the king’s great sorrow, the little boy was not found.

Hours blended into days, days into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. The little boy was no longer a little boy; he had grown into a strong young man. At first he really had thought he was the king’s son, but so many adults had told him differently that he began to think maybe it had to be a dream. After all, adults knew those kinds of things. As the years passed he forgot about the castle and about his heritage. It didn’t take so many years to forget about the dream altogether.

Then the young man began to run with the wrong crowd. Murder, stealing, rape—nothing was beneath them. But he was still a prince. If you are a prince (even when you don’t know it), it shows. Eventually the young man became the leader of the gang. He surpassed all of his friends in his unlawful acts and spurred them on to even greater acts of lawlessness. Years after he had left the castle and his father, the king’s son had become the most wanted criminal in the kingdom.

Advent Intro (Candles and a Story)Then one day, through a rather complicated set of circumstances, the king found out that his own son was the kingdom’s most wanted criminal. At first he couldn’t believe it, but the more he checked, the more it became clear that he had found his beloved son, and when the authorities finally found him, the king faced a terrible dilemma.

The king loved his son, but he was also fair and just. He knew that if he released his own son who had committed terrible crimes, he would need to release all the others who had committed crimes. That was unacceptable.

And so the king’s son was arrested and brought before a judge who condemned him to be executed for his crimes. The verdict was just. The king’s son was thrown into a dungeon beneath the castle where he had once lived to wait for his execution.

On the night before the young man was to die, the king made his way to the prison beneath the castle. Opening his son’s cell, he walked in and sat on the bunk across from his son. The king sat there a long time looking at his son before he spoke.

“You are my son.”

“Someone told me.”

“Have you ever wondered, over these years, about your parents?”

“Sometimes, but I had a good life, and it wasn’t that important.”

“Well, I have never stopped wondering about you, where you were and what had become of you. You have never been out of my mind and heart.”

The king continued, his voice trembling with emotion and tears running down the age lines in his face, “My son, I loved you with a great love, but you became lost. I did everything I knew to do. I sent out my soldiers; I offered a great reward; I have never ceased to search for you. But now it has come to this and tomorrow you are to die. But, son, I have decided to allow you to go free.”

With those words, the old king got up and walked out of his son’s cell into the crisp night air. The young man went over to the cell door and tested it. Well, what do you know?, he thought, that old man left it open.

The king’s son grabbed his coat, threw it over his shoulder, and with a cynical smile spoke aloud: “That stupid old man! He thinks because he has set me free I will come back to his castle and be his lackey. Well, he is more senile than I thought.” And with that, the young man ran up the stairs and disappeared.

Some two weeks later the kings’ son found out what price his freedom had cost. On the day of his scheduled execution, the requirements of the law had been met. It was his own father that had taken his place before the executioner the next morning, and had literally died so that his beloved child might be free.

You probably have some questions: What did the son do? Did he return to the castle and become king? Did he even care about the price his father had paid for his freedom? Did he decide to obey the law?

I’m not sure because, you see, you are the son and I am the son.

At the very heart of the incarnation [of God becoming man], at the very heart of God himself lies a cross. That is the true meaning of Christmas: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2,6) “And they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:23)

For us, God took on flesh, coming to earth as a baby…. But the baby didn’t stay that way. For us, the wood of the cradle became the wood of the cross… because of God’s great love.

(Story adapted from Key Life Magazine – Christmas/Winter 2009, Volume 24, #3 Pg 8 & 11)