By LIBBO CROSSWHITE
Simple truths that point to the manger — and the cross
The mere thought of Jesus’ birth and what it looked like that night as Mary held the Savior of the world in her arms for the first time is one of those visions that sparks all types of emotions in me as a believer and a mom. How intimate those first moments of Jesus’ human life must have been as Mary became both a mother and the caretaker of Grace.
I think now more than ever, the Christmas story has the ability to bring the world hope in a year that has tested our faith in so many different ways. I was challenged with this thought the other day in a conversation with a friend:
Is the Christmas story a story you hear every year in December, or have you experienced the birth of Jesus in your own life?
As powerful as the vision is of Mary in the dark of night cradling the promised King, the empty tomb some 33 years later makes Christmas the true culmination of hope and grace in human form.
I asked Mary Thomas on the way home from church the other day what she learned, and she told me that she learned about the man that asked Jesus what he meant by being born again. Her rendition included that the man was “very confused how he could be born once and then go back and be born again.”
Naturally, my next question was, “Well, what does it mean to be born again?” To which Mary replied, “It means that you don’t have to live in your old life. You can live brand new and be someone who knows God.” Whew. If I had survived tears in the worship service that morning, I certainly didn’t survive them in that moment.
Mary didn’t let me get weepy for too long, because she then told me that she raised her hand “bigger than anyone else” when they asked if anyone was a sinner in the room. She’s not wrong, but she certainly keeps me humble.
Maybe you need to hear that rebirth is possible. It’s not too late; you are not too far gone. There is grace at the cross that started in the manger. How do I know that? Because by grace alone, God has taken my grief-stricken, broken heart, and the ashes of all that I have tried to do or say to be enough, and covered me in the grace of new life — only found when I stopped trying so hard and found freedom in living in the promise of God’s truth. The battle has already been won for us.
Jason Smith, our Madison Pinelake pastor, celebrated a baptism recently, and he said sometimes the best way to remind ourselves of the truth of God’s word is by mourning. Oftentimes we are reminded that the Christian life is a paradox. Ecclesiastes 7:2 shows us that:
“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.”
Not the warmest message to hear at Christmastime. But maybe it’s exactly what we need to hear in what is a season of mourning for many of us. Even if we haven’t lost a loved one, we can all point to having lost something in this season — a sense of normalcy, canceled events, stability, certainty, the list goes on and on.
Mourning takes us to a place of need: Jesus is no longer just a nice thing to celebrate, but the thing that will ultimately save us from the world’s pressures and our own inability to grasp full control of our ever-changing circumstances. We are given new life — a life built on far more than a month’s worth of presents and feasts — a life of looking up when everything begins to crumble around us.
This year, I pray the Christmas story would be the crucial truth on which we build our lives — the truth, from God’s Word, that we desperately needed the King to rescue us from our worries, insecurities, brokenness, and ultimately our sin.
God created us, sin separated us, Jesus saved us.
Simple truth that leads us to a response. What will it be for you this season?
Libbo Haskins Crosswhite and her husband, Clay, live in Madison and attend Pinelake. They have one daughter, Mary Thomas, who is 6 years old, and a son, Russell, who is 4 years old. She is the high school guidance counselor at Madison-Ridgeland Academy and can be emailed at email@example.com.