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Christmas Devotion

The Terrible Beauty of His Birth

By Dr. Bruce C. Swaffield


In the joyful celebration of Christmas, there is a certain note of sadness that echoes throughout the ages: Jesus was born to die. His birth brings hope and promise. Yet, it is his death that makes possible our salvation.

Most all of the great Renaissance paintings of Madonna and child reflect the reality of Jesus’ life. The loving eyes of Mary look down at the newborn child with happiness and sorrow. She is full of delight and wonder. But her tears of bliss are mingled with mourning, for she knows what he must do. She realizes what his birth means. He must also suffer death.

In the background of the manger scene is the cross, already waiting. All too soon it will hold the body of this tiny, innocent child. All too soon his life on earth will end. He will take the sins of the world with him into death and rise victorious.

We have much to be thankful for this Christmas as we remember our Savior’s birth 2,000 years ago. Not only did He come down to earth, but He also allowed Himself to be tortured and crucified – all for our sake. He now looks down on us from His heavenly throne, with Gis heart full of compassion, and says, “I did all this because I love you.”

There was nothing loud or flashy about His birth. Jesus was born in a lonely, dark stable among animals and nearby shepherds. The world barely knew about this event that would change all time and life. There were no colored lights, no Christmas carols, no Santas, no snow and no presents, except the most important gift of all.

What God did on that night is beyond comprehension. Through His Son, He came to earth to reveal what could not be seen by the naked eye, what could not be understood through the rational mind. He showed the world a hope that could be experienced only through the heart by the power of His love and grace.

Behind the tinsel and trees is a light that shines brighter than all of the others. Sadly, many will not see it because they are caught up in all of the decorations and displays. They will not truly realize what they are doing when they give presents to loved ones. Their simple act of love is re-presenting the greatest act of love the world has ever known.

The words of John 3:16 take on new meaning when put into the context of Christmas morning: "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son." Because of His overwhelming compassion for each one of us, God sacrificed His Son both in life and death. Today, we can celebrate with hope in our heart and joy in our soul for Jesus' birth gave us new life now and forever.

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Bruce Swaffield is a professor in the Regent University School of Journalism in the the College of Communication. He welcomes your e-mail comments.

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