"Ko te ingoa o te wahine ko Meri.
Na, ko tona haerenga ki roto, ki a ia, ka mea, Tena koe, e te wahine kua manakohia nei; kei a koe te Ariki: ko koe te manaakitia i roto i nga wahine".
"The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you”.
— Luke 1: 27b-28
JD Greear drew something out of Luke chapter one that has struck me deeply.
He said in a sermon:
"Mary has just been told she is going to be pregnant with no husband in a culture where this is not only frowned upon but punishable by death."
Think about Mary's situation. The man she loves, her fiancé, is probably not going to understand what happened. Chances are, he will leave her.
If Joseph leaves her, she will be utterly destitute. She might even have to beg. Her reputation will be ruined. No one will want to marry her, and she will be unable to support herself. Her only hope, her relationship with Joseph, is falling apart before her eyes. This pregnancy puts Mary under extreme hardship—a result of the curse of death.
The fact is, Jesus was born to a woman under the curse of death. Greear writes again, "We, the whole human race, are under the curse of death. Jesus was born to us and would grow up to rescue us. He would take that curse on the cross in our place."
The gift of Christmas is the cross.
The curse of sin, evil and death runs right through us. At the cross, Jesus finally and fully deals with it.
The rescue that was promised through Abraham, promised through David, and promised through the birth of Jesus was finally achieved at the cross and validated by the resurrection.
Last Saturday, I was travelling to Northland to visit churches for a few days. I was waiting in Auckland airport before taking a flight to Whangārei.
I had a tooth that had been troubling me since August. The pain had become excruciating. I cancelled my trip and had an emergency tooth extraction the day after. The cheerful dentist mentioned casually: "Tooth pain is the worst kind of pain…"
But I've been thinking about it, and I don't think that's true. We all know that’s not true. There are deeper pains, caused by the curse of death.
Bodies ravaged by disease, relationships shattered by random death, love paralysed by addictions… the pain of injustice, of inequality and cruelty... But Jesus dealt with death on the cross. He will, when he returns, make the world right in a moment.
Tolkien wrote, describing this moment, “All the sad things come ‘untrue.’” Greear comments on this, saying, “The wording of that is strange, on purpose. Tolkien didn’t mean we’ll forget they happened, just that the feeling of loss and permanent damage will be removed. The impact and influence of pain on us will be reversed.”
I am so profoundly grateful that the gift of Christmas is the cross of Christ.
The cross of Christ gave hope to a destitute Mary all those years ago. It gives us hope today that the curse has been broken, that Jesus will put everything right when he comes again.
We are a movement of ordinary churches filled with ordinary people.
One of the delights of this role is knowing God has entrusted his mission—pointing people to Jesus, through the gospel, from the Scriptures—to ordinary churches made up of ordinary people.
There’s no Plan B.
There are no super special people, secret sauce or silver bullets... just ordinary people entrusted with God's extraordinary good news.
The Cross at Christmas
"Ko te ingoa o te wahine ko Meri.