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Jesus: Our Everlasting


Peace: Remembering the Cross at Christmas

Thursday, December 14 | by Dr. Mark Cook

Today's Reading

Isaiah 53:5

During the course of the fall semester, I've been re-reading sections from C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. In the chapter entitled "Hope," Lewis describes how longing and desire for God can often be hard for us because our minds are so fixed on this world. "I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country," he says, "which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same."

Throughout my life, I have often found it hard not to get "snowed under" by the Christmas season. From late October right up to Christmas morning, there is relentless messaging that makes it feel like Christmas really is just about the things of this world: family time, presents, sumptuous food, nostalgic songs, beautiful decorations. As I have experienced this "snowed under" effect, I have fallen into the trap that Lewis calls mistaking these earthly goods "for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage."

So how do we keep the main thing the main thing? How might we not get "snowed under" yet again this Advent season? I think it helps to start by reflecting on the condition of our hearts. What is it that my heart really longs for and desires? What is the love of my heart, in other words? I've come to realize that I have been baptized into a cultural way of thinking, relating to, and living in a world that seeks the gifts of life rather than the Giver. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in the last few years of his life, wrote a short treatise on gratitude that describes an alternative way of living: "Gratitude seeks the giver above and beyond the gift. It arises from the love that it receives. Only when it breaks through to God's love has it arrived at its goal. But then it will itself become a wellspring of love for God and others."

Pressing on to love God more fully, to truly desire him above all else, is also aided by memory. My Old Testament professor, Paul House, has described Moses' first four chapters of Deuteronomy as deriving from the prophet's deep conviction that memory is a way to encourage affection. Moses describes and reflects upon Israel's history in the first four chapters as a way to set up and frame the great commandment from chapter 6 to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deut. 6:5, ESV). He then contrasts remembering and forgetting in Deuteronomy 8, revealing the close connection between memory and affection. When we look back and reflect on what God has done for us in history (memory), our hearts are stirred to gratitude for what God has done for us (affection), and we are moved to express our love through greater devotion to Him.

When we look back and reflect on what God has done for us in history (memory), our hearts are stirred to gratitude for what God has done for us (affection), and we are moved to express our love through greater devotion to Him.

The Christian tradition emphasizes that the cross is the center of human history and thus gives us a fixed point of reference to continually remember. As Isaiah 53:5 reminds us, it was His acceptance of suffering for us that brought eternal peace and healing. John Stott's book The Cross of Christ has a special section on "Living Under the Cross," where he gives focused attention to the way that observing Communion can foster greater love, devotion, and desire for God. He shares that the bread and cup of Communion "oblige us to look back to the cross of Christ, and to recall with gratitude what He suffered and accomplished there."

So, my word of advice and encouragement to not get "snowed under" this Christmas season is simple: gather together and take Communion. In that time of reflection and memory of Jesus' love through His incarnation and suffering, consider that it was through His blood that our peace, our wholeness, and our hope for shalom were forever accomplished. His Suffering, Our Peace. Soli Deo Gloria.

Dr. Mark Cook serves as an Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Leadership at Dallas Baptist University.

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