Two objects made of wood help tell the gospel story.
One constructed to feed animals. The other constructed for punishment.
One held the newborn babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, the other held the Suffering Servant, whose kingdom would have no end.
In a simple barn, the couple took shelter, not knowing what the future would hold. Embracing God’s plan for their lives, they followed, led away from their home on a journey to Bethlehem, then urgently away from their country to Egypt.
Held In A Manger
His appearance as a humble child may not have fit the picture as one who would crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15), but it was the humble nature of the Son of God, to leave his heavenly place, to share in our human experience and give his life as a ransom for many.
Held in a manager, this child bearing the divine nature of God was an extravagant gift of humility. Such a striking contrast to our own nature. Seeking after ourselves, our own gain, our own desires, he sought after one thing, and one thing alone, the will of the Father.
The rescue we so desperately need, was held with the hay.
But the rescue was not complete in his birth. He walked, he taught, he healed along the dusty paths of Israel, making great the name of the Yahweh. Startling the religious leaders, and inspiring hope in the people.
Held On A Cross
Expected to take to the streets, to rebel against Roman authority and free the nation from the oppressive government, the people would watch and wait; the promised Messiah was anticipated to be the great deliverer. Yet, he wasn’t what they expected. He was powerful but humble, full of love and compassion for all people; teaching with passion and authority.
With wrong assumptions about who this deliverer would be, he was slandered, spat at, and arrested.
He would be held as a prisoner, and held on a cross.
If you pick up a cat, it either wants to be held, or it doesn’t. You will quickly discover the answer. It will either snuggle in with you, or bear it’s claws and scramble out of your grasp.
Jesus was held willingly.
Death Had No Hold
But death could not hold him. “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). And with glorious victory and power, he did not stay in the tomb, but life returned to him, and his life makes a new way.
He followed the plan of God to be born a child and suffer death on a cross to restore us to the Father; he submitted himself to the will of the Father, in perfect humility. A sinful nature has no place in the holy sight of God. The offering was provided, a way to cleanse our souls and make us presentable before him.
With this humble example, can we follow? Can we surrender everything we want, to be held in the hand of the Father, through whatever he brings our way.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God’ I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Jesus shows us that to walk in obedience means walking in the strength of the Lord, not our own. He knew the journey set before him, yet he did not waver. This Christmas, our lives are on hold and the future uncertain, may we step forward without fear, in the confident hope that we are held in his hand.