A Manger in the Shadow of a Cross by Betty Mason Arthurs

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This year’s Christmas elementary program at our Christian school entertained and touched me. For me, watching children perform is more fun than watching a favorite TV show or taking in a movie. You never know what’s going to happen.

Digital cameras clicked as parents and grandparents captured for all time:

The sweetness of children singing about angels and baby Jesus;

The shepherds scratching their itchy spots;

The black-nosed, floppy-eared lambs baaed and giggled;

The white fuzzy feathers from the angel wings floated in the air and were chased by one lamb which he tasted and spit out;

“Glory to God in the highest” the angels shouted and no one minded when the word “angles” came up on the power point screen.

The crash of the microphone hitting the floor sounded like thunder.

Fortunately, tiny Mary took good care of baby Jesus and rocked him gently in her arms all evening.

Overshadowing the pageant in the center of the stage was a large wooden cross. I don’t know about you, but I seldom connect the cross that Jesus died on with Christmas time.

Baby Jesus, a king, born to a virgin named Mary, was placed in a manger in a smelly stable instead of a palace. Angels told the frightened shepherds the good news. I would have loved to have been there to hear their shouts of joy as they searched Bethlehem for the baby. Wise men came from the east following a star, another strange sight, all to give gifts to a baby and his parents. No cross is mentioned in the biblical story of Christ’s birth. Why have a painful reminder of how Jesus died when the lovely story of his birth is a Christmas theme?

Perhaps I need to rethink how Christmas is celebrated. So many suffer through the season because they have lost loved ones. My neighbor’s only child, a son, struggled with drug addiction for years, entered a fine rehab program and seemed to be doing well. A few days before Christmas he died of an overdose and lay in a morgue for three days until they identified him and found his family. Imagine the pain and heartbreak for his mother every Christmas…and all who have suffered loss.

Another friend, just last week, lost a beloved sister to heart disease. She was married 47 years to her high school sweetheart. I struggle to find words of comfort but have given up and replaced words with loving hugs.

Perhaps the cross reminds us that Jesus also suffered. He was born to die for us. Can we all find comfort in God’s plan? As messy and pain-filled our lives become, can we find hope and comfort in the manger…and the cross?

If you watch The Voice on TV you heard one contestant last week, Craig Wayne Boyd, sing “The Old Rugged Cross.” His moving performance of the old hymn by George Bennard, 1873-1958, affirmed our faith as Christians and reminded us that the cross, on a hill far away, was where Jesus suffered and died for all mankind. I cried while Craig sang and I’ve been singing the song ever since. The video has been shared many times on Facebook.

Yes, I now believe the cross belongs in the Christmas program. I also remembered my high school performance of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” by
Gian-Carlo Menotti. Our director hung a huge star in center stage and at the end of the musical the star turned into a cross. My dad remarked, “That’s the finest part of the program, to see a star become a cross.”

Christmas is not about the presents or the beautifully decorated tree or the best-dressed, lighted house on the block. Isn’t it about the birth of the most treasured baby of all time who God sent to die on a cruel cross? Jesus so loved the world that he came as a helpless baby to experience our humanity and show us God’s love.

This season, I’m going to remember the manger in the shadow of a cross. There all of us can find hope.

 

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About Betty Mason Arthurs

I have been the CEO of my family for years...translation: I'm a wife, mother, grandmother, owned by two cats, and often drive my husband crazy. I have belonged to Tuesday's Children for over 20 years and without them my writing skill would have been left in rejection piles all across America. I am a non-fiction author who has leaped into novel writing and having fun in my memories of nursing school in the 1960s. We'll see if I can do an e-book with the adventures of my first novel. I am a Christian who isn't perfect but loves the Lord Jesus and I never take much that happens too seriously due to my weird sense of humor. And I'll talk about my seven grandchildren nonstop if you want me to. Blessings on all of you.
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5 Responses to A Manger in the Shadow of a Cross by Betty Mason Arthurs

  1. Beautiful, Betty! Thank you so much. My favorite Christmas hymn is “Joy to the World,” but it could just as easily be sung at Easter. “The Lord has come” at Christmas to dwell among us, and at Easter to redeem us. That’s something to celebrate no matter what’s happening in our lives.

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  2. Linda Carlblom says:

    A beautiful post, Betty! From manger to the cross. What a message of hope and redemption!

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  3. Andrea R Huelsenbeck says:

    I remember seeing a picture of moonlight shining through a window on baby Jesus in the manger, and the divided pane forming the shadow of a cross on Him. I agree; the cross gives another layer of meaning to the nativity scene.
    How I love Christmas pageants! I loved being in them as a child, and I love watching them. You described it so beautifully, Betty. Reading this post made me feel like I was seeing it.

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  4. Peggy Levesque says:

    A beautifully written reminder of the ultimate purpose behind the birth of Jesus. I love the idea of have a cross including in the stage setting. Years ago, I went to a church that every year conducted a week-long Second Coming Conference in early December with the same purpose. Thanks, Betty. Well done.

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