Of course the spiritual anguish of the cross is real as well. Jesus was not only nailed to the cross, the Holy One took on all our sin. Nailed by our shame, God's crown of glory was replaced by a crown of thorns. And He took all this on by His choice. He said, "This is the kind of God I am. I do this for you, to show you the kind of people you can be."
Which brings us to the Christmas season ... Thoughts of Christmas often focus on the physical settings for the birth of Christ. We love the manger and the shepherds in the field. And rightly so ... Invariably at our Children's Christmas musical a tiny wise man or a funny little guy in a sheep costume will steal the show. We love these images for many reasons. But we do not overlook the spiritual realities of the birth of Christ.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end" (Luke 1:26-33 NIV).
This is the message of the manger. It is the crux of the cross. It is communion and Christmas — the complete physical world yet also the entire spiritual, a truth that will never end: the reign of God over all life. Your life. And of course you know yourself so you ask, "Me? God did all this for me?" In a word, "Yes."
Right now we take this bread and this cup in the name of this Jesus as a reminder of the cross, of His death and resurrection and even the meaning of His birth. Not only His birth in Bethlehem, but His birth in your heart.