I have a Nativity set that has been in my family for over 40 years. It has been out with the other Christmas decorations as long as I can remember. Now, it graces my living room, on a built-in shelf in my living room. It's plastic, and to be honest, is made up of garish colors straight from the bowels of 1974. It is nonetheless a beloved piece of our Christmas decor. Each time I walk past it or look at it I notice, though, that baby Jesus has slipped out of the manger and is resting on the shelf.
I put the plastic figurine back in the manger.
He slips back out.
Over and over, all through the Christmas season, I have placed the baby back in the manger. He slips back out again. I was about to get out the hot glue gun and get the baby Jesus to stay in there, but then I had this incredible, amazing thought:
He didn't stay in the manger.
Think about it: the real Baby Jesus didn't stay a baby, and didn't stay in the manger. The Bible says that His mother and adopted father Joseph took him, eight days old, directly to the Temple as devout Jewish parents did in those times. While there, they were greeted by old Simeon, who was filled with the Holy Spirit. "Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man," [2:52].
Jesus' whole purpose was to preach the Good News of His coming, and for salvation -- to die a sinner's death on a cross. "He has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, [2 Timothy 1:9].
Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross, willingly laying His life down for us. He willed Himself to give up His spirit after an unheard-of three hours on the cross....most people took days to slowly die on the Roman execution device.
But He didn't stay on the cross!
Blessed assurance, He didn't stay on the cross!
No, He was taken down when He died and was wrapped in burial cloths with myrrh and frankincense -- common embalming elements then -- and placed in a borrowed tomb. A heavy stone was rolled into place, a Roman seal and guard were placed, and the world waited.
All of heaven waited.
For three days, as the disciples huddled in fear for their own lives and satan and his demons cheered in apparent victory, it seemed like Jesus had failed. It seemed like Jesus' dead body was in the tomb for good.
But -- He didn't stay in that tomb!
That stone was rolled away not for Jesus to get out -- No! But for His disciples and for the world and for satan to look in -- in to a very echoing, hollow, empty tomb.
The tomb was empty! Jesus didn't stay in the tomb....and He folded His bed sheets! Now, in ancient Jewish culture, when the man of the house was going to come back to the meal, was just taking a break from eating, he would fold his napkin -- a sign to the servants to wait, that he would be back -- don't be hasty and remove his plate. If the man wadded his napkin and placed it on his plate, that signaled he was not coming back.
Jesus folded his napkin.
For forty days after the Resurrection, Jesus taught His disciples. Certainly they paid a lot more attention this time around. Then, with his disciples following, Jesus walked up the Mount of Olives, told them to go, share, teach....
He didn't stay on the mountain. He didn't stay on this earth.
He ascended to the throne of God, where He sat down at the right hand of God the Father. But He's not going to stay there.
He's coming back, friends.
Jesus is coming back.
Love in Christ,
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