Copyright © 2013 by Ralph Couey
We are entering that time of year that we most often associate with joy. Thanksgiving is upon us, and in a month, Christmas and then New Years. This is a time in which friends and co-workers have parties, we begin that mad rush of cleaning, shopping, cooking, baking, and decorating, all in preparation for that much-anticipated gathering of family. It is a happy, if frenetic period. It is mainly the reason why January is so hard to endure.
At the core of this whole event is, of course, the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The giving of presents honors the supreme gift given by God of his only begotten son. The bright, colorful lights that brighten the lengthening nights remind us that the coming of Jesus was a light unto the world. Even the gathering of families and the sharing of that love helps us to remember the depth of the love God has for us.
And yet, the story of the manger is only the first step of the journey Christ took that led to that cross on the hill, and eventually the miracle of the resurrection. It is important for us to remember that it was those awful hours on that cross that gave meaning to the celebration of his birth. Jesus was sent here to take upon himself the sins of man, therefore the only reason for his birth was so that he would journey to the cross.
Yeah, I know. Buzz kill. This is not a season in which we want to dwell on dark thoughts, on negative events. We don’t want anything to disturb this holiday euphoria of ours. The bad stuff can wait until April, when we can share time for the crucifixion story with Tax Day on April 15th.
There is a building tension in the recounting of the time between the manger and the cross. We don’t know a lot of details about Jesus as a child, although there are a few highlights, like his teaching in the temple. We really don’t begin to know him until that day he shows up with John the Baptist. From that point, we know about how he gathered his disciples, and how he taught the masses, challenged his enemies, and performed miracles. We follow along as he came to cross-purposes with the Sanhedrin, and how they plotted to take his life. We see his torment in the Garden of Gethsemane as he accepted his fate, and his isolation as he saw that even his devoted disciples couldn’t stay awake to share the vigil of those final hours.