The contrast could not be sharper. Jesus’ arrival and departure on earth paint stark differences.
Mary’s kiss of affection on her baby’s cheek is replaced with Judas’ greedy kiss of betrayal. Adorned in swaddling cloth at his birth, he is clothed at death with a makeshift purple robe and twisted thorns. Instead of being lovingly laid in a manger, he is cruelly laid on a cross. A brilliant star illuminates the night sky when he is born. A piercing darkness shrouds the noon day sun when he dies.
The air is filled with the sound of jubilant angels in the city of David… “Glory to God in the highest!” A lone shattering cry of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” resounds from Calvary. The myrrh offered as a gift in happy celebration of his coming is mixed with wine to deaden the excruciating pain at his crucifixion.
He entered the world and left it with acknowledgement that he was the king of the Jews-the first time in homage by three foreign kings, the second in mockery by hardhearted soldiers. In his birth, heaven came to earth. In his death, earth returned to heaven.
So what are we to make of such contrasts in the two most important events in human history? Until we understand the humanity of Jesus found in the Nativity we cannot embrace the divinity revealed in his death and resurrection.
At Christmas we have the opportunity-once again-to embrace the incredible truth that God came to us in human form. He came to show us who he is. In Jesus, God revealed what the highest form of his creation would look like were it not for the ravages of sinful self-will. Maybe this season is a good time to linger at the manger a bit longer, to soak in the humanity of the King of kings and Lord of lords, and to rise with renewed determination to follow him…all the way to the cross…and beyond.
For one similarity reverberates with eternal implications in these two events. Herod’s furious determination to murder the newborn king failed. And although Pilate’s sentence may have resulted in Jesus’ death, it was a death that lasted only three days before he triumphantly burst back into life revealing to all mankind….
The Savior born in Bethlehem is indeed the Resurrection and the Life. Now that’s cause for celebration!