What the Birth of Jesus Says About You

The trimmings of the season were all around me during my Bible reading this morning: the Christmas tree next to my chair, the glow from the seasonal lights reflecting off the pages of my Bible, mellow carols quietly playing in the next room. It seemed a strange setting in which to read the passion narrative, but since that’s where my Bible reading plan has me this time of year, that’s what I read—John 19:16-42.

Surrounded by all these reminders of the birth of Christ, I read and pondered John’s description of the death of Christ. All at once I was struck by the parallel details in the two accounts, similarities I had never put together before. Here’s what I saw…

Both are marked by stunning humiliation. At His birth it was the social status of His family, the rejection at the inn, the manger-bed. Those of His death are equally well known to us—the nakedness and mockery, the accompaniment by criminals, the abandonment by His friends, the utter disgrace of crucifixion.

Both offer a special notification to others about who Jesus was. At Christ’s birth the special announcement came to the shepherds via the angels. At His death it was via a sarcastic sign posted above His head by Pontius Pilate.

Both are accented by a high concentration of fulfilled prophecies; so high, in fact, that these two periods are the most prophesy-intensive of His entire life.

Finally, both offer unusual details about how He was clothed and where He was laid. At both His birth and His death He was wrapped in linen cloths. In addition, both accounts are careful to tell us exactly where He was laid: in a manger at His birth and in a friend’s tomb at His death.

So what’s the point of it all? At minimum, these details suggest that we should see the birth of Christ in light of the death of Christ. The romantic details of Bethlehem foreshadow the horrific details of Golgotha. In other words, we miss the point of Christ’s birth if we don’t recognize the point of His death. Oddly though, these details have directly opposite effects on some people. Some who love the humiliation of His birth scoff at the humiliation of His death. Some find the “swaddling clothes” romantic but the burial shroud repulsive.

What about you? These parallels are meant to forge an unbreakable link between Christ’s birth and His death. Do you rejoice at His birth but scoff at His death? Or do you worship at His birth precisely because it points you to His death?