• Dwight Dunn

Christmas Tree: Reminder of Jesus' Cross

This Advent blog post is one of a series of devotions from the Teaching through the Trimmings devotional. The devotions use the sights of Christmas to remind us of Jesus Christ. To download the complete devotional, please click here.

An angel told Joseph, who was engaged to Jesus' mother Mary, that “she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

You may not like to hear the doctor say you’re sick especially when you feel good. The doctor is not being mean when she says you’re sick; she’s helping you to get better. In the same way, the Lord tells us we have a problem and He does so because He loves us and wants us to have a forever love, life, and happiness.

The Angels Tells Us the Problem

The angel said our problem is our sin. To sin means we don’t listen to God. We sin when we don’t do what God tells to do. For example, God tells us to pray to Him. If we don’t want to pray or forget to pray, we aren’t obeying God. We also sin when we do things that God tells us not to do. For instance, God tells us to be kind to one another. If we treat others meanly or say unkind things to them, we sin by doing what God forbids.

However, sin is more than failing to do the good God tells us to do or doing the bad He tells us not to do. When we don’t listen to God, we think that what He says is untrue. We think we know better than God. We don’t love God. Sin is part of who we are as people. We’re born in sin. Our minds, hearts, and wills are affected by sin and desire to sin. Like Adam and Eve, our sin separates us from God and He will punish us as a result. Since we can’t do anything to make ourselves better, what hope do we have?

The Angel Announces Good News

The angel joyfully announces God’s Good News to Joseph to give us hope! The angel tells us that Jesus is God’s promised deliverer who will save us from our sin! How does Jesus do this? The answer relates to another tree the Bible tells us about.

Peter, one of Jesus’ friends and followers, says “(Jesus) committed no sin . . . He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:22–24). Peter tells us Jesus would save people from sin by dying on a cross made from a tree. Peter also says that Jesus committed no sin. He has never done, said, or thought anything wrong. He has always done what is right. Since Jesus is without sin, He is righteous. Since people are sinners, we are unrighteous. Our sin creates two problems for us. Our sin creates a punishment we cannot pay and an unrighteousness we cannot change. How can we exchange our punishment for forgiveness and our unrighteousness for righteousness?

Our sin creates two problems for us. Our sin creates a punishment we cannot pay and an unrighteousness we cannot change.

The Good News: Jesus Makes an Exchange

Many people exchange gifts at Christmas. To exchange means that we give one thing and receive something else in return. Emma gives her friend Lily a gift and Lily gives Emma a gift in return. The friends exchange gifts. Imagine that when Lily opens Emma’s gift, she finds a brand new, fluffy, and bright-white robe. Pretty nice! Emma then opens Lily’s gift to find a raggy, dirty, greasy, and stained shirt. Not cool! Emma would surprise us if she wore Lily’s dirty shirt.

Emma and Lily’s exchange is a picture of the shocking exchange that takes place at Jesus’ cross. The dirty shirt is a picture our sin and unrighteousness. The perfectly clean robe is a picture of Jesus’ righteousness. On the cross, Jesus wears our unrighteousness and puts His robe of righteousness on us. Jesus takes our sin on Himself and pays our punishment through His death on the cross so that His Father will forgive us. Jesus takes His robe of righteousness and covers us with it so that God doesn’t see our unrighteousness but He sees us only in Jesus’ perfect righteousness. The Bible says that “God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV84).

Receiving God’s Gift

Christmas reminds us that Jesus was born so that He might die on the cross and rise again from the grave so that His Father would forgive us and accept us as righteous through Jesus. The only way to receive God’s gift of salvation is through faith. You can trust in Jesus by confessing to God that you have sinned against Him, deserve His punishment, and cannot do anything to save yourself. Believe that God loves you and gave His Son Jesus as the only hope for you to be saved. Ask God to forgive you of your sins because you believe that Jesus paid the punishment for your sin on the cross and has given you His righteousness. Commit to love and follow Jesus through His power and to turn away from your sin.

Receiving God’s gift of salvation through faith is just the beginning of a new life in Jesus Christ. We learn more about how we grow in this new life by looking at another tree in our next devotion.

Remember: When you see a Christmas tree, think of God’s amazing gift to exchange your unrighteousness for the righteousness of Christ and believe Him!

Discuss: Why was it necessary for Jesus to both pay the penalty for sin and to be our righteousness?

Pray: Have you received God’s gift of salvation yet? If you want to receive God’s gift of salvation, look over the paragraph above that begins, ‘Christmas reminds us that Jesus was born . . .‘ Use what you learn there to pray in faith to trust Christ, confess your sins to God and commit to love Jesus.

If you have received God’s gift of salvation, spend a few moments thanking God for saving you. Pray that others may believe in Jesus too.

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