God rest ye merry — Matthew 20:17–19

The King’s actions

The final journey

It seems a strange passage to read on the Christmas Bank Holiday, one which talks about Jesus talking about his coming death. But if we are going to think about Jesus being Emmanuel, God with us, we cannot do it justice without thinking about why he came. The song God Rest ye Merry, Gentlemen has this line in the first verse: To save us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray. This is about how he did that.

A wooden manger stands on a wooden floor. The light from the window casts a shadow of a cross on the wall behind.
Manger and cross.
Image from Flickr by MTSOfan
Used under a Creative Commons non-commercial licence

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

matthew 20:17-19

I wanted to use a picture of a scourged Jesus wearing a crown of thorns carrying not a cross but a Christmas tree, but I was unable to find a public domain or free to use image. Please imagine it.

The story of Jesus starts with a wooden manger and ends with a wooden cross Christmas Day is not the whole story, it’s only the opening chapter. The full story starts with a manger and a birth and ends not with a cross and death, but with a resurrection, ascension into Heaven and the promise of a return to judge and rule the earth. The resurrection means that we shall be resurrected and see Jesus “But in heaven, set at God’s right hand on high.” Words from another Christmas hymn, Once in Royal David’s City. “Heaven and Earth shall flee away when he comes to reign,” says another, In the Bleak Midwinter. We have the hindsight to see the story from cradle to cross, the faith in Jesus now and a real hope for the future in Jesus coming again. It is all part of the same story, incarnation, atonement, resurrection and return.

Withour Christmas there can be no Easter and without Easter there is no point in Christmas. We celebrate the birth of Jesus, “Born to raise the sons of Earth, born to give them second birth,” As Hark, the Herald Angels Sing puts it.

That can be our story too. Christ Jesus can be born in us by the Holy Spirit, we can be freed from those parts of ourselves that hold us back and then we can be resurrected and see the reign of Jesus the King.

Are would willing to accept Jesus?


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