I was browsing through the Christmas ornaments at Hobby Lobby earlier this month when I saw an ornament that struck my eye. Even though it wasn’t a figurine from the manger scene, the cross-shape wasn’t too out of place. There were several other cross-themed ornaments. No, it was the message on the ornament that caught my eye: He Is Risen. It took a minute for me to process, but it makes perfect sense. The only reason that we celebrate Christmas with such joy and hope is because Christ was born… and thirty-three years later he died for our redemption… and rose again.
As promised, so Christ came. Simeon knew this when he saw the eight-day old baby Jesus:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devote, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Matthew 2:25-32)
This was anticipation at it’s finest. So what joy must Simeon have felt when he held the One bringing salvation!
Also in the temple that day was Anna, an 84-year-old prophetess who lost her husband after seven years of marriage.
And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Matthew 2:38)
They were waiting for the greatest love of all — a love that resounded through the prophets, and their own people’s history. A promised Savior who would show a blind world the grace of a forgiving Father, perfect love in reconciliation, and the truth that sets free. It is a love that we can trace from the beginning of the world.
Here is love…
…in Genesis, when God promises that the Devil would be crushed by a descendant from Eve (Gen. 3:15) so that sin would be only a temporary power in the world.
…in God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that God will call a people to Himself (Gen. 12:1-3).
… in the books of the Law, in which we see that the price for atonement for sin is in the life and the blood (Lev. 17:11). The animals, which bear the iniquity and penalty for human sin (Lev. 16:21-22) are signs that the coming perfect Savior will bear what a sinful people themselves deserve.
… in the books of the prophets when more signs are given so that people could recognize the Savior when he come.
… in the Old Testament stories where the faithful God pursues a faithless people.
… in Old Testament history where the righteous God judges sin to bring repentance, but does not utterly destroy his people.
… in more Old Testament stories where God preserves his chosen people from their earthly enemies… because of His promise: from them a Savior will come.
… in the first 17 verses of Matthew, after hundreds of years of silence, we read that God has kept his promise and the Savior is born.
Here is love…
… that at the right time, God came as a newborn baby boy…
“as he spoke by the mouth of the holy prophets of old. That we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his covenant.” (Luke 1:70-72).
… who grew into a man and performed miracles to show his power over sickness, death, and sin…
“But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the paralytic–“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” Mark 2:10-11
… and so that we might believe that he really was God Incarnate.
“If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37-38)
Here is love…
… that Jesus died…
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
… the innocent for the guilty…
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:11,18)
… so that we might be free from eternal condemnation…
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh… (Romans 8:1,3)
… so that we might know the love of God.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9)
Here is love…
… He is risen.
For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15: 21-22)
So, this Christmas, may we marvel and rejoice as Simeon and Anna did. May every figurine of baby Jesus in a manger remind us that here is love.
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)