"Joy To The World"
Easter begins at Christmas. Joy to the world! For unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given. Away in a manger. Silent night. These Scriptures and beloved hymns remind us of where the story begins. Yet the Bible tells us there is much more to the story than the arrival of the infant Jesus. The baby was born for one primary purpose, that is to die.
Surely Mary & Joseph would have been worried, as all first time parents are, that their new baby would be healthy. They probably experienced tremendous relief that he survived his humiliating & unorthodox birth. They must have been relieved that he survived the journey to Jerusalem where on his eighth day they presented him at the temple. And though they had not been fully understood what the angel words meant, they believed in God's promise. Somehow, in some way, this brand new baby boy would save his people from the enormity of their sins.
Yet, the angelic messenger never said that the infant Jesus would cause trouble, so they must have been shocked to hear the words of the elderly prophet Simeon who greeted them as they entered the temple grounds. Their son, their only son, whom they loved, would bring pain. People would say terrible things against him, accuse him of the greatest affronts against God, against Moses, against their cherished traditions, and experience hostility from the priestly caste, powerful men who mediated the common people's access to the place of God's presence.
As Jesus grew, he understood this, hinting to his friends that his destiny would be a decidedly unpleasant one. But his friends failed to understand his teaching. Later he would tell them explicitly that he would be condemned & murdered, but also that he would return. One of Jesus' closest friends shouted "Never!" Yet Jesus was resolute. This Christmas baby was born to be subjected to brutality & humiliation. He would lay down his life so that he could bring eternal life to every person who would believe in him and receive the gift of forgiveness made available to us by the loving, sacrificial obedience of God's own beloved son. The Father's rescue mission, directed towards reclaiming and restoring a darkened humanity consumed with rebellion against his loving lordship, would be accomplished that fateful day on the cursed cross high atop Calvary's hill. Joy to the world indeed
"For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again."
John 10:17 (ESV)