The Gift of the Cross
“Every religion and ideology,” writes John Stott, “has its visual symbol, which illustrates a significant feature of its history or beliefs.” Few doubt that the cross is the most recognizable symbol of Christianity today. What is the Gift of the Cross?
But why the cross? As Dr. John Ankerberg pointed out in a recent program with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, “What if you put an electric chair on your necklace instead of a cross, and you wore an electric chair instead of the cross for your pendant? Because that’s what the cross really is talking about: it’s an execution instrument. And we wear it as decoration!”
The cross represents death. In fact, during the centuries when it was practiced, crucifixion brought about death in an incredibly painful way. The website Got Questions comments,
“From about the 6th century BC until the 4th century AD, the cross was an instrument of execution that resulted in death by the most torturous and painful of ways. In crucifixion a person was either tied or nailed to a wooden cross and left to hang until dead. Death would be slow and excruciatingly painful; in fact, the word excruciating literally means ‘out of crucifying.’” 
Of course, as Christians we understand we are not celebrating the cross; nor are we celebrating painful death. Rather, when we think of the cross, we think of what Jesus’ death on that cross has accomplished for us.
We know that Jesus died as the Lamb of God, to pay the penalty for sins which we have committed. We understand that, because of His death, we can come before the Father perfect, as God is perfect, because we come before Him clothed in the righteousness of Jesus.
“…he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).
Further, and most profoundly, we understand why Jesus died on the cross.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).
As we celebrate Jesus’ birth let us never forget that the cross cast its shadow over His whole life. This is the one of whom God said, “She [Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
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