Matt Carter teaches on the cradle and the cross.
Series: The Cradle and the Cross
There is a children’s Christmas poem about the night Jesus was born. All the angels in heaven were pumped for His birth. They were sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the sound of the baby to cry so they could go crazy and start celebrating. As Mary was about to go into labor, God looked over at this one little angel and said, “Hey, come over here. I have a job for you. I need you to go right now to earth and plant a tree.” The angel said he would do it and took off for earth, but he was bummed to miss the greatest moment in human history. He totally missed out. He could hear heaven going crazy and celebrating. He never understood why God sent him on that mission. Thirty-three years later, he realized the baby, whose birth he had missed, was to be crucified on the very tree he had been sent to plant.
This isn’t really how it all went down, but it gives us some insight into the heart of God for our Christmas season.
The cradle and the cross are inseparable and connected. The birth of Jesus was not an act unto itself. It was a means to an end. It was the first step in Jesus’ journey to the ultimate point of why He was born in the first place, which is the cross.
During Christmas we have a tendency to focus on just Jesus’ birth and the fact God came to us in the flesh. However, the birth and death of Jesus were never meant to be thought of separately. They were always meant to be discussed together.
Genesis & The Cradle and The Cross
Even back in Genesis, in the Garden of Eden, God spoke of the connection.
Satan had come and deceived Adam and Eve, telling them to eat of the fruit from a certain tree so they could be like God. They took the fruit and ate. Right then, God showed up and began to speak to Satan.
14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life; 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman… Genesis 3:14-15a (NASB)
What’s interesting is that He says, “the woman,” because Adam was standing there too. When Adam and Eve sinned, God didn’t call out Eve, He called out Adam, because he was responsible for leading that relationship. Yet, when God began to talk to Satan, He mentioned the woman.
…And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Genesis 3:15b (NASB)
God was speaking about the cradle and the cross. He was telling Satan He would put enmity between his seed and her seed. Woman don’t have seed, so God was saying there would be a child born without the seed of man, meaning He would be born of a virgin.
God also said Satan would bruise the heel of this child. In other words, Satan was going to hurt him. God was talking about the cross here. He then explained that the same child whose heel Satan would bruise would turn and bruise him on his head. Essentially God was explaining that in the process of Satan hurting this child, through the cross the child would destroy him.
All the way back in Genesis 3, God was calling the shots. He was going to fix all that Satan had just messed up. He would make all things right and new, redeeming His people back to Himself. There was going to be a cradle and a cross.
Thousands of years later, after God called this, the prophets of God began to speak about the same thing.
Prophets & The Cradle and The Cross
The prophets told everyone who would listen about the cradle and cross.
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 (ESV)
Emmanuel means God With Us. The prophet Isaiah was talking about the cradle.
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:2-5 (ESV)
The whole point of the baby being born was so He could grow up and die. His chastisement would bring us peace. His wounds would heal us. The prophets knew all this. They were speaking of the cross. They knew about both the cradle and the cross.
Mary & The Cradle and The Cross
The moment Mary found out she was carrying the Messiah in her womb, she knew what that meant. She was a devout Jew and would have been familiar with both Isaiah 7 and 53. She knew there would come a Savior who would be born of a virgin. While realizing she was carrying the Messiah, she would have also realized that His wounds would heal us all.
39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:39-41 (ESV)
Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist. When Mary walked in the door and began to talk, John the Baptist began dancing in Elizabeth’s womb.
42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Luke 1:42 (ESV, emphasis added)
The word blessed that she used is the Greek word eulogeo, which meant blessed because people speak well of you. Elizabeth was explaining to Mary that because of this, everybody would speak well of her. She had been chosen to bear the Son of God. However, Mary’s response shows us she understood it was about more than just a birth, but would eventually mean a death as well.
46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, Luke 1:46-47 (ESV)
Of all the names of God, Mary called Him her Savior. That was pretty unusual for people to call God their Savior at this point in scripture.
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed. Luke 1:48 (ESV, emphasis added)
At first glance, you think she’s repeating what Elizabeth had just said about everyone speaking well of her. Mary actually uses a completely different word in the Greek. She used the word makarizo, which means she’ll be blessed because she is indwelt with God. She knows she is carrying the Messiah inside of her; she’s carrying the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 in her womb. She’s carrying the One who will carry out Isaiah 7 and will one day fulfill Isaiah 53.
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. Luke 1:49-50 (ESV)
Mary said, “I’m indwelt with God and through Him the mercy of God will be poured out on all generations.” This was to be done through the cross. Mary knew about both the cradle and the cross.
Jesus & The Cradle and The Cross
One of the things we tend to forget is that the cross was always the plan.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. John 1:1-3 (ESV)
Jesus has existed eternally with God; there has been nothing made apart from the creating power of Jesus Christ. This means Jesus planted the very tree He would be crucified on. It means Jesus formed the thorn bush that would be cut down, placed into a crown and pressed on His head. It means Jesus made the iron that would be used to create the nails that would be driven into His feet and hands. It means Jesus fashioned and formed Judas the betrayer in his mother’s womb.
The cross was never Plan B. It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t an after thought. Jesus planned His own sacrifice. His birth was never meant to be separate from the death of Jesus.
Jesus also knew about both the cradle and the cross.
Us & The Cradle and The Cross
God, the prophets, Mary and Jesus didn’t talk about the cradle and the cross separately. As followers of Christ celebrating Christmas we cannot separate or disconnect them either.
There are going to be three different groups of people who will celebrate Christmas this year.
The first group will completely miss the point of Christmas. Fifty-two percent of America will celebrate Christmas this year with absolutely no connection whatsoever to Jesus. They’re going to put Christmas lights up, go to Christmas parties, get up early on Christmas morning and exchange gifts, gather with their families and sing songs together. For them, that’s it.
If a person who had no concept of Christmas followed this group of people around in order to gain an understanding of what Christmas is about, it would blow their minds. They would have no idea whatsoever why they were doing what they were doing.
The second group will celebrate Christmas by celebrating the cradle, the birth of Jesus. Christmas will mean more to them than it does for the first group. They’re going to have some awesome experiences, go to church, and sing songs like “Silent Night” and “Away in a Manger”. But that’s where it will end.
The same person who has no concept of Christmas could follow them and might begin to understand. They’ll realize the holiday is about Jesus and celebrating His birth. But that’s it. They still will have missed the point. The celebration of Christmas will never take them from the cradle to the cross. Some of us celebrate like this. However, almost every religion loves Jesus. People don’t have a problem with Jesus’ birth. Where people get hung up is on the death of Jesus.
Jesus was born so He could grow up, live a perfect life and die as the atonement for our sins. You cannot be saved because you trust in the birth of Jesus. You can only be saved if you trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
As Christians we have to be a people that don’t just celebrate the birth of the baby, but rather the birth of a Savior.
For us, the birth of a baby was never meant to produce in us praise. What was meant to produce in us praise is the birth of a Savior, who would shed His blood and die in order to redeem us back to Him.
We can’t just point people to the cradle. We have to point to why the cradle was there in the first place.
The third group are the ones who will not only celebrate the birth of Jesus, but what it was all about, the cross of Jesus. This group will remember when the angels came to the shepherds that night, they didn’t say, “Today, in the city of David, I bring to you good news and great joy, because there has been born for you a baby.” They will remember the angels actually said, “Today, I bring to you a good news of great joy, which is for all the people, for today, in the city of David, there has been born for you a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
You’re going to be the people who won’t be singing about the birth of a baby, but worshipping because of the birth of a crucified, risen King. You’ll lift your hands and with all that is within you, you will sing, “For Christ is the Lord and we’ll praise His name forever, because His power and glory forevermore is going to reign.”
You’re singing will turn to Christ exalting worship.
Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
- Lyrics to “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”
People are watching you this Christmas, people with no concept whatsoever of what Christmas is all about. When they watch and listen to you, let them see you celebrating Christmas for everything that it was meant to be.