1 Who has believed our message,
and to whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed?
2 For he went up like a shoot before him,
and like a root from dry ground.
He had no form and no majesty that we should see him,
and no appearance that we should take pleasure in him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering, and acquainted with sickness,
and like one from whom others hide their faces, he was despised,
and we did not hold him in high regard.
4 However, he was the one who lifted up our sicknesses,Isaiah 53:1-5
and he carried our pain,
yet we ourselves assumed him stricken,
struck down by God and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
crushed because of our iniquities;
the chastisement for our peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we were healed.
by Paul David Tripp
The suffering of Jesus didn’t begin on the cross; it began in his straw bed
and continued through to the cross, all for our redemption.
In truth, that beautifully decorated tree, those gorgeously wrapped presents, and all that tasty holiday food, which make us happy during the Christmas season, are poor representations of the world into which Jesus was born and what his everyday life would be like. Jesus didn’t show up for a celebration. He wasn’t here for a vacation. His world wasn’t well decorated, and he surely wasn’t well fed. He came to a world that had been dramatically broken by sin, and his calling was to expose himself to the full range of its brokenness. This is where the details of Christ’s birth are important. It means something profoundly important that the cradle of his birth was a feeding trough in a borrowed barn. You are meant to pay attention to the fact that he wasn’t in a palace, attended to by servants. It’s important to notice that the first smells that entered his infant nostrils weren’t oils and perfumes, but animal smells.
These seemingly unimportant details set up a sharp contrast between our celebrations at Christmas and the true conditions of the Messiah’s entry into our world. Most of us would be in a complete panic if we had to birth a baby in such conditions. But none of this was an accident. These conditions were God’s plan. They announce to us that the Messiah came not to be served but to serve (Matt. 20:28). Since he came to rescue sufferers, it was essential that he suffer too. And his suffering wasn’t reserved for the cross; it started the moment he was born. Everything he suffered was on our behalf. He would suffer but not lose his way. He would suffer and not quit and walk away. He would suffer and not grow bitter and angry. He would suffer and not respond with vengeance. He would suffer without thinking, desiring, saying, or doing even one wrong thing. He exposed himself to our world, to live as we could not live, so that as the righteous One, he could pay the penalty for our sin and give us not only peace with God, but a ticket to a future where suffering would be no more.
Don’t let shiny ornaments and bright lights keep you from seeing the dark, sad drama of the life of that baby in that borrowed barn. Jesus experienced not one moment of ease in his life. Read the passage from Isaiah 53 again and let it sink in. Jesus wasn’t good-looking in the way that would make him naturally attractive and popular. People regularly despised and rejected him. He was alienated from the very people he came to love and to rescue. His life was marked by sorrows and griefs of every kind. He willingly walked to his torture. He hung on that cross, body bruised, beaten, pierced, and broken. He did not look for escape. He did not selfishly use his power. He did not mock his mockers. He didn’t do any of these things because he understood that suffering was what he came to do, and he was willing.
Jesus suffered because he did not demand what was his right; he endured what was wrong so that we may be right with God. The manger of his birth is a clue to what he came to do and what every day of his life would be like. The way God chose to rescue sufferers was by becoming a sufferer himself. Every moment of his suffering was done with us in view. Every dark moment of physical, relational, societal, and judicial suffering had a high and holy purpose to it: our salvation. You see, Jesus came to suffer because he came to be our Savior.
There’s nothing wrong with the shiny ornaments and bright lights. Your celebration of what Jesus willingly did for you should be a festival of overflowing joy. So celebrate the blessings you’ve received, the best of those being the gift of Jesus, by passing that blessing on to others with gifts of love. Eat wonderful food, but let it remind you of the lavish spiritual food that God feeds you with every day because of the willing sacrifice of his Son, Jesus. Here is what this means for you: commit yourself this Christmas to be a sad celebrant. Let your joy at what your Savior has gifted you with be mixed with grief at what it cost him. Remember this Christmas that you are celebrating the birth of the “Man of Sorrows.” Remember as you celebrate that the One whom you celebrate enjoyed none of the things that likely make up your celebration (a house, beautiful things, fine food, etc.). This Christmas may your holiday joy be shaped and colored by remembering that you have eternal reason for joy because of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of your humble, willing, suffering Savior.