The Shadow of the Cross

JosephJesus3Second Sunday after Christmas Day (January 3, 2016)


Ephesians 1:3-14 New Living Translation

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. 11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

12 God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.


Today is the Second Sunday of Christmas.  Because of the way the days fall this year, we have two Sundays in Christmas.  It is also the 10th Day of Christmas.  Thus the reason I posted the picture above of Jesus with his earthly father, Joseph, playing in the carpenter shop.  You will see that the child Jesus casts the shadow of a cross.  This is where the scripture from Ephesians takes us – at least in the context of Christmas.  We always like to romanticize the Christmas story.  It happens with many of the stories from long ago.  But I have said it from the pulpit, we cannot divorce the baby in the manger from the Christ on the cross.  In verse 4 we are told that Christ was the plan from the very beginning – before the foundations of the world – that was the plan.  God wanted us to be united with Christ.  For those who have received Him – he has blessed them with every spiritual blessing from the heavenly realms.  That is amazing stuff!  That God would desire for us to be united with Christ – and continue the fellowship that began in the garden — and to restore the original intended relationship – even after we sinned – even after we broke his heart – that is amazing stuff.  That is God’s amazing, crazy grace.  Paul goes on to tell us that God and Jesus decided on a plan from the very beginning to adopt their creation – human beings – into their family – isn’t that amazing.  I think it is.

We are reminded in this passage of God’s amazing grace – God’s amazing kindness.  God purchased freedom from our sin and showered kindness and grace on us even though all we deserved was death.  This grace and kindness came through Jesus – who wanted us to be part of the family – it was a willing sacrifice on his behalf.  Like I said earlier, Christ came at just the right time – some translations mention, “in the fullness of time.”

Here is even the more amazing part.  More than being part of God’s family, God desires us to be made holy and without fault.  This is something that I have never seen in the Christmas story.  Christ came to make us holy – to make us set apart – to make us pure.  Christ didn’t come so that we could have a ticket to heaven or save us from the powers of hell (or in other words fire insurance.) No, Christ came so that we might be holy – so that we might have life and have it more abundantly.

But wait…there’s more! Most of us are familiar with this phrase from infomercials, but Paul tells us there is more. There is coming a time (another right time) that God will bring everything under the authority of Christ both on heaven and on the earth.  We will and (have already) received this wonderful inheritance.  How cool is that?

God revealed himself – first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles.  In addition to saving us and addition to making us holy and restoring the relationship.  God desires that we would worship and glorify Him.  When we think of all that Christ has done for us, that is our only option.

In order to know all this is true, God gave us his Spirit – His Holy Spirit – this is a guarantee of the promise of the inheritance that awaits for us.  The Holy Spirit also reminds us that Christ came to purchase us as his own people.  How cool is that?

As we gather for worship tomorrow – as we think about this Jesus who came – he is more than just a baby in Bethlehem – he is the one who purchased our salvation.  When we think about that, we have no choice but to worship Him and give him the glory!


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