He was so excited! The day came when he would have the opportunity to go to work with his hero, his dad. To this little boy, his dad had tremendous power as a bridge operator. He could raise and lower the bridge with a single hand. He couldn’t wait to watch his dad operate the bridge and see the mighty ships pass by on the river below. After he spent the morning watching and listening to his dad tell story after story of the passing ships and the far off places they were going, it was time for lunch. Dad decided that it would be fun to go eat lunch on the observation deck of the bridge. As they sat and ate, dad told more stories of the passerby’s, until the distant sound of a train’s whistle startled them back to reality. Dad realized that the 1:00 would come screaming out of the trees and approach the bridge very soon. With the bridge still raised, he had to rush back to the control room and lower the bridge before it was too late. He told his son to finish his lunch and to stay put. Just before he thrust the lever down, he glanced over to look at his son. He saw something that made his heart leap in to his throat. His precious boy had tried to follow his dad across the catwalk and had fallen in to the massive gear box of the bridge. What would he do?! He immediately realized that if he went to save his son, all of the people on the train would lose their lives in a catastrophic accident. However, if he lowered the bridge, he would kill his only son to save the lives of all the people on the train.
With his head down, tears running down his face, he sacrificially thrust the lever down. As the train roared out of the trees and across the bridge, dad looked up and watched the train pass by. Seeing people in the cars as they crossed over the river, not one of them glanced over. Not one of them noticed what he had done for them. No one seemed to care that he sacrificed his only son to save their lives. Why don’t they care?
Although this is just an analogy, this is the Christmas story. God sent His only Son in to this world to die. We all too often get caught up in the preciousness of the baby, the nativity scene, the lights, the presents, the cookies, and eggnog. We tend to forget that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, but it doesn’t end there. We are celebrating the fact that this miraculous birth was just the beginning. This baby boy’s purpose was to grow up in service of His Father, and bring salvation to everyone. 1 John 3 provides us the “reason for the season”. “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:5,8b ESV) Jesus did not come in to this world so that we would celebrate the nativity scene. “He came that we might not go on sinning; and he came to die so that there would be a propitiation–a substitutionary sacrifice that takes away the wrath of God–for our sins, if we do sin” (John Piper). We are not to celebrate the baby. We are to celebrate the life of our Savior, who would one day hang on a rugged cross to become sin for us so that we would inherit everlasting life!
“The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity–hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory–because at the Father’s will Jesus became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross.” ~ David Rosales
Here is what is amazing about the story of Jesus’ birth. We are all given the opportunity to understand and believe. The Magi or Wise men were some of the most intellectual people of their day. They were well read, wealthy, smart, and very “popular”. Then there are the Shepherds. Some might say that they were on the other side of the spectrum. Maybe, intellectually, one step ahead of those they herded. They weren’t well known, and very far from wealth. No matter what side of the societal spectrum they sat on, each were given an opportunity to experience the extraordinary.
“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” ~ Luke 2:20 (ESV)
“And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” ~ Matthew 2:11 (ESV)
No matter our lot in life, we have been given the opportunity to experience Jesus Christ. Yet, there are some of us just like those on the train. We fail to look up and realize what had been done for us. We go through our life without recognizing the sacrifice that God made for us. He gave up his one and only so that we could live. We have the choice to look up and say, “Oh, that’s a nice nativity scene.” Or, we can look heavenward and declare as the angels do, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” May we come before Him, humbled, on our knees prepared to give all that we have. He gave His life for us. Can we not do the same for Him?