In the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, there’s a scene where Ricky Bobby, played by Will Ferrell, says grace before the family meal. He prays, “Dear Lord baby Jesus…” referring to Him through his prayer as baby Jesus, tiny infant Jesus, and newborn baby Jesus. His wife interrupts and says Jesus grew up and Ricky didn’t always have to call Him a baby. He explains he likes the Christmas Jesus best when saying grace.
The scene stuck with me because it’s exactly what the world does when it comes to Christmas. We focus on a sanitized and sentimentalized baby version. Glorifying the baby Jesus and His birth is done in such a way the significance of Christmas is often missed.
Most of the Christmas carols we sing and pageants we perform cater to this perspective. Don’t get me wrong; there is wonderful theology in many carols as they speak of the incarnation, Jesus as King, and the birth of a Saviour. But few if any are explicit about the fact that baby Jesus was born to die.
Apart from the Gospel narratives, the birth of Jesus isn’t celebrated in Scripture. In fact, the apostles don’t recall the stable at Bethlehem, nor do they mention Mary by name, shepherds, wise men, or the star, to say nothing of cattle, sheep, and snowy winter!
Unless we view Bethlehem from the perspective of the cross, most of what we sing and celebrate at Christmas amounts to glorying in the cradle, not the cross. The love of a babe in a manger even though virgin-born and a King does nothing to save us. The Apostle Paul wrote, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world,” (Galatians 6:14 KJV).
What saves us is the love revealed; when a grown-up Jesus hangs on a cross, suffers, and dies. When we have been to Calvary we cannot glory in the manger beyond the fact it was the preparation for the cross.
To know and experience the real meaning of Christmas we must not linger too long at Bethlehem. We must go on to Calvary. We should remember the crib, but we should live at the cross. The wonder and glory of Christmas is not that Jesus came it is rather He came to die for sinners like you and me! His virgin birth brought God to us, but only His death as our substitute could bring us to God.
Have you been brought to God? Or are you still at a distance, your sins separating you from God? A big gap separates an unforgiven, unredeemed sinner from a holy God. If we should celebrate the birth of our Lord and are still not brought to God then we have missed the whole purpose of it.
Second Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (NASB).
Are you rich? Rich in the knowledge that all your sins are forgiven? Rich in the knowledge that through Jesus Christ you possess a priceless, perfect righteousness, which God will accept? Are you rich because you can say the Lord has taken away the rags of your self-righteousness and clothed you with the garments of salvation?
Are you rich today because you have a steadfast and sure hope? Or are you spiritually bankrupt with nothing as you face the future and eternity? Maybe a few shreds of religious profession, maybe some effort now and then to try to clean up your act and live a better life? Is that all you have?
If Christmas finds you still living without God and without hope in the world, I ask with all sincerity why go through with Christmas? Would it not be something of a charade?
But if we have trusted Jesus as our Saviour, if we see through His cross our sins have been taken away and righteousness has been given, if we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, then why should we not celebrate Christmas and everything else that speaks to us of our Saviour and His great redeeming work?
Don’t go into Christmas seeing only the cradle with the baby version of Jesus. Look at Bethlehem from the viewpoint of the cross. The child of Bethlehem became the man of Calvary and carried your sin on that cross. Believe it. Receive it. Glory in it.