The whole of Christ’s life was a continual passion;
others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr.
He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified,
even in Bethlehem, where he was born;
for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after,
and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last.
His birth and his death were but one continual act,
and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but
the evening and the morning of one and the same day.
From the creche to the cross is an inseparable line.
Christmas only points forward to Good Friday and Easter.
It can have no meaning apart from that,
where the Son of God displayed his glory by his death.
~John Donne –opening words in his sermon on Christmas Day 1626
It is easy to hear of a baby in a wooden manger laid there by overwhelmed first-time parents far from home, surrounded by soft-eyed farm animals and adoring raggedy shepherds who reported hearing glorious singing angels.
It is not at all easy to hear of the slaughter of innocent children by a paranoid king in response to that baby, knowing in our hearts and feeling in our guts the desperation of the wailing grieving mothers.
It is much harder to fathom this baby, three decades later, as a grown man, flogged and bleeding, hanging from a wooden cross surrounded by mocking soldiers, his weeping mother and friends, and two crucified criminals. This is much much more than we bargained for — this from a baby asleep in the hay.
Instead of the heavenly host declaring his glory, he himself spoke words of forgiveness and grace with his last breaths, making clear his death, as well as his birth, was no mistake, but one continual act of God’s glorious salvage of his children.
He makes clear a willingness to wear our skin and walk in our sandals, in order to die in our place. Our own birth and our death are no mistakes either.
He claims us; we shall know his voice when he calls our name.