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Thursday, 24 December 2009

Crib, Cross, Crown.

I don’t know who it was in the BBC who was inspired to broadcast as a Christmas movie, the film version of C.S.Lewis’ “The Lion, the witch, and the wardrobe” – but it was, surely, inspired! The story may have the arrival of ‘Father Christmas’ as one of the signs that the reign of the evil witch is coming to an end, and he is travelling through Narnia handing out gifts. But it isn’t a traditional Christmas story – Biblical or otherwise! It includes so much else, especially the willing sacrifice of the great Lion, Aslan, in the place of the foolish Edmund. It’s a sequence that still brings a tear to my eye as I see the whole story of the crucifixion (and the glorious resurrection!) of the Lord Jesus – the sinless One, dying in my place.

In about an hour and a quarter, I will be leaving to conduct the Watchnight Service in the church in which I am doing most of my preaching these days. And the brief message that I have prepared is a reminder that Christmas is but the beginning of a wonderful story. At this season, it is true that we concentrate on the crib in which the Babe was laid. But if we stop there; if all we ever see is a helpless infant laid on a bed of straw; then we miss so much. Because we must move on; lift up our gaze; and see the cross to which the Saviour was nailed. It isn’t the pleasantly sentimental picture that we have in the traditional (although Biblically inaccurate!) nativity scene. This is now a grown Man, with blood caked on His head and back, and flowing from the wounds of the nails in wrists and feet. Not as pleasant a scene as the one on even the ‘religious’ Christmas card that may be hanging on a wall in your home. Yet even that is not the end of the story. Because the Word of God assures me that the crucified Jesus rose from the dead – victorious over sin, and hell, and the grave. And I am also assured that He is going to return. So we will be considering the crown with which the King will come. Because, next time, He will not appear as a helpless Babe, but as the One at Whose Name “…every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue … confess that [He] is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil.2:10-11).

When Jesus preached in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16ff), He read from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The precise passage was Is.61:1-2 – but, strangely, He stops in mid-sentence! The second verse reads “to proclaim the year of YHWH’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God”. However, Jesus stops after the word ‘favour’. Could this be because He knew that He was truly ushering in the time of God’s grace, and that it would be at His Second Advent that He would come to judge the earth and all of its inhabitants?!

One thing is certain: today truly is the time for salvation (II Cor.6:2); tomorrow may be too late!
I wish each and all of my readers a blessed and peaceful Christmas, and trust that as you worship the Babe, you will also worship the Saviour – King of kings, and Lord of lords – and be among those who “… love His appearing” (II Tim.4:8).

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