The focus for Christians each year is typically on the “babe in the manger” as described in the Luke 2 and Matthew chapters 1 and 2. Yet Christmas, to have true meaning, cannot be separated from the cross. The angel said at the birth of Jesus, “He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus Himself — speaking just before His death on the cross — said, “For this cause was I born” (John 18:37).
Christmas means embracing the truth that Jesus was the only person in history who was born with the specific purpose of dying for others (a God-dispatched “call for service” in fulfillment of at least 300 Old Testament prophesies that, taken as a whole, provide indisputable, mathematical evidence that the Christ story is true beyond any shadow of a doubt).
Folks, the context of Scripture (God’s Word — the Bible) reveals that the purpose of the manger was realized in the horrors of the cross, and the “cops” of Jesus’ day had a “disturbing” hand in all of it.
Disturbing? Consider this written by William Smith back in 1992:
Why aren’t people disturbed by Christmas? One reason is our tendency to sanitize the birth narratives. We romanticize the story of Mary and Joseph rather than deal with the painful dilemma they faced when the Lord chose Mary to be the virgin who would conceive her child by the power of the Holy Spirit. We beautify the birth scene, not coming to terms with the stench of the stable, the poverty of the parents, the hostility of Herod. Don’t miss my point. There is something truly comforting and warming about the Christmas story, but it comes from understanding the reality, not from denying it.
Most of us have not come to terms with the baby in the manger. We sing, “Glory to the newborn King.” But do we truly recognize that the baby lying in the manger is appointed by God to be the King, to be either the Savior or Judge of all people? He is a most threatening person.
Malachi foresaw his coming and said, “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.” As long as we can keep him in the manger, and feel the sentimental feelings we have for babies, Jesus doesn’t disturb us. But once we understand that his coming means for every one of us either salvation or condemnation, he disturbs us deeply.
What should be just as disturbing is the awful work Christ had to do to accomplish the salvation of his people. Yet his very name, Jesus, testifies to us of that work.
AMEN! The Baby’s destiny from the moment of His conception was the cross in the place of sinners. When I look into the manger, I come away shaken as I realize again that He was born to pay the unbearable penalty for my sins… Christmas is rightly disturbing.
Moreover, part of the disturbing truth of Christmas is this: from the moment of Jesus’ conception, the cross loomed before Him, and “cops” — the Roman and Jewish “peacekeepers” of His day — had a mostly negative and brutally abusive hand in all of it. Let’s quickly break this down biblically through the following points:
(1) Jesus is ultimately the greatest “cop” (a servant-warrior/servant-leader) in all of history. Where’s that in the Bible? One of the titles given to describe our Lord long before His human birth was “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6-7). It looks beautiful on a Christmas card alongside “Wonderful Counselor” and “Prince of Peace” (He is the true “peacemaker”) but it’s more than a nice title. This is a term heretofore only used for God the Father but is now applied to the “newborn King” (God the Son). This phrase also points us to the war between good and evil. The word “mighty” in the Hebrew can be translated into “warrior” (meaning the One who is fighting against the forces of darkness on behalf of His people). Is this not what we do as modern-day police officers and combat military personnel fighting against terror and evil? In fact, Exodus 15:3 drives this home: “The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is His name.” Jesus, the ultimate “peace officer,” was born to us in a manger (a feeding trough for animals) on a police-esque “call for service” that ends not only on the cross (Jesus paying the price for our sin) but also in Satan’s ultimate defeat (Revelation 20:7-10).
(2) While we who serve (or served) in law enforcement have this incredible role model in Christ Jesus, there is also another disturbing side. Sometime after Jesus’ birth (between 50 days and a year or more), Herod sent his secret police out to murder every male child up to two years of age in an effort to take out Jesus in the process (the “Slaughter of the Innocents” as described in Matthew 2:16-18). Can you imagine coming home after your shift with the knowledge that you were responsible for the death of numerous innocent children (on pain of your own torture and horrific death should you fail)?
(3) At Jesus’ trials before His death, it was the “cops” of His day who falsely arrested and abused/tortured (excessive force) Him. (see “The Trials of Jesus”)
(4) It was the Roman “Feds” (military “peacekeepers”) who tortured our Savior, nailed Him to a cross, witnessed His death (with the Centurion and the LEOs with him seeing the overwhelming EVIDENCE before them, gave expert testimony in exclaiming, “Surely this is the Son of God!”). Then, three days later, it was a crack 1st Century “SWAT” team who were first-hand witnesses to Jesus’ miraculous resurrection.
(5) Finally, on a positive front, let’s not forget that our loving Father chose members of what was then a despised profession — simple shepherds — to be the first witnesses to Jesus’ birth (outside of Mary and Joseph). The analogy? The shepherds and sheepdogs of Jesus day both served and protected the flock against the wolves of would otherwise prey on them (a whole sermon in just that) just as modern-day sheepdogs — the police — protect the public today (see Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs).
So what is the most important application for us in this message? Despite the fact that ours is a God-ordained profession (Romans 13:1-4), unless we are first born again (saved and transformed) in Christ, our so-called “good” service and “good” deeds amount to nothing more than “filthy rags” in the eyes of a wholly righteous and just God! Despite the fact that ours is a God-ordained profession, unless we are first born again, our service amounts to nothing more than filthy rags Click To Tweet
Folks, here’s the truth of Christmas summed up wonderfully in John 3:16 — out of love for us, God the Father sent His only Son into the world to pay the price for OUR sin (yours, mine and yes, the brutal officers of Jesus’ day)! In the end, Christmas is about the GIFT God gave us in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ, who came on a God-dispatched “call for service” (ultimately the cross) to offer the ONLY path to salvation for all who surrender to Him in faith.
Now, despite the plethora of evidence before you, will you still argue that those 1st Century officers were just following orders? Or that their actions are not representative of us today — that you’re a “good person” or a “good cop” who “deserves” to go to heaven because of your so-called “good deeds” and sacrifices stemming from your “righteous” service in law enforcement or the military (or life in general)? If so, it is again with a “Code 3” (lights and siren) sense of urgency that I implore you to “repent and believe” (Jesus, Mark 1:15) — to surrender to Him in faith — TODAY whilst you still can.