Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Box, A Baby, A Lamb and A Cross

For the last few weeks we have been talking about Christmas. Have you been counting the days until Christmas? Have you been wrapping gifts?

As I was wrapping gifts, I started thinking about the wonderful gift God has given us when He gave us His own Son. You know, I have a son, too, and it would be very hard for me to send him far away…especially if I knew that people would treat him badly, even though he was willing to die for them.

Right now, there are many mothers and fathers in our country whose children have become soldiers and have gone to Iraq to fight so that the Iraqi people can have freedom. Many of those American soldiers have been injured and some have been killed for the sake of the Iraqi people.

When Jesus left Heaven to come to earth, His Father God knew just what was going to happen to Him, but He loved all the people of the earth so much that He willingly gave us the gift of His own Son.

I brought along some things today that represent the greatest gift of all…Jesus Christ.

When I think of this box full of straw, I think of the cattle out in the barn. They might eat from this manger…maybe the chickens would roost in it at night…maybe mice would build a nest in the corner. A barn is a pretty dirty place, isn't it? It would be cold and drafty out there, and there would probably be dirt and spider webs…and it might not smell too nice, either.

BABY WRAPPED IN BLANKET (Place baby in manger)
But it would be the place where Mary would lay her baby…God's only Son…soon after He was born. She would wrap Him in blankets to keep Him warm, and Joseph would stand close by to protect this tiny baby that God had given him to provide for and to shelter.

LAMB (Place the lamb near the manger)
When God's angel told the shepherds out in the fields to go to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus, they knew where to find the manger…and the baby. The Bible says that they left their sheep to hurry to the barn where He lay. Sheep and goats were important to the people In the days when Jesus was lived on earth. Young sheep and goats were taken to God's temple in Jerusalem and killed there as a sacrifice to cover the people's sins. When the baby Jesus grew to be a man, the prophet John the Baptist, told people, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." God's Spirit was speaking through him to show people that some day Jesus would be the One sacrificed for sin. No more lambs and goat s would have to die, ever again.

THE CROSS (set behind the manger)
If you were going to run in a race, where would you begin? (starting line) How important is the finish line in a race? (it is your goal as you run) Jesus' birth in Bethlehem was only the beginning of the race He came to run. His goal was not to be born…but to die. All of His life was lived in the shadow of His death. When we celebrate Jesus' birth this Christmas, it is a happy celebration, but it is only the beginning of the work Jesus came to do. When you look at the little baby in the manger, don't ever forget the cross at the finish line.

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