This will be the fourth and final Advent devotional I send out, and although it isn't Christmas Day yet, I want you to look beyond the Manger and consider the Cross.
Why? Because while the birth of Christ is amazing, without his death and resurrection, Jesus is just another baby and Advent isn't worth celebrating.
With that in mind, I want to focus on what I think is one of the most radical phrases in Scripture. I've always been amazed and confused by this verse: "But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief." (Isaiah 53:10, NASB)
I'm the parent of four grown children and also a grandfather. How could it be that a Father would ever find pleasure in crushing his Son?
This verse really makes me shiver. I have a protective heart for my kids, even though they're out of the house. I don't want any harm to come to them, and I try within my limits to protect them from danger and difficulty.
It crushes and grieves me when any of my children are crushed or grieved; I certainly wouldn't want to do anything to personally inflict that pain on them. And yet, this verse says that a Father of abounding love finds pleasure in crushing his only Son.
What could be so powerfully motivating in the heart of a Father to enable him to crush his Son and find pleasure in his grief?
The answer is found in John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world..." God looked at this broken world, he saw our broken hearts, he saw the separation between himself and us, and he was motivated into action by reconciliatory love. The only solution was to crush his Son.
God's love for you sent Christ to earth to be born in a manger; God's love for you drove Jesus to the Cross to die a brutal and horrific death; God's love for you rolled away the stone from the tomb; and, just as important, God's love continues to provide for you today.
Each Christmas, I think many of us are reminded of the eternal love God has for us. But what about his right here, right now love?
This is where I love the words of the Apostle Paul: "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)
Here's the logic: if God sent Christ to earth to be crushed for our eternal salvation, it makes no sense for God to turn his back on us during our present time of need. In other words, the guarantee of our eternal future also guarantees everything we need right here, right now.
We have other evidence of this promise, too: "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life" (2 Peter 1:3, NIV) and "My God will supply every need of yours" (Philippians 4:19).
God knows what you need, and he will provide everything for you today, tomorrow, and every day until you meet him face to face. God's love not only applies to your past sin and your future eternity; God's love meets you where you are, right here, right now.
Now that's a Christmas story worth celebrating!
- What has brought you pleasure this Christmas season? (Personal confession: I love Christmas cookies!)
- How have your pleasures motivated you into action this month?
- Do the same things that bring you pleasure bring pleasure to God?
- What are two or three pleasures that you and God share, and how should those pleasures motivate you into action?