Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12 :2 NIV
“Early Christians knew without doubt all facets of the life of Christ stemmed from one reality…one central reality: the cross. Jesus was born to confront the cross; Jesus died on the cross to bring us to fullness of life; Jesus rose to defeat the cross; Jesus embodied what the role of the cross was to be in the life of us all.” –Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year
Visions of families gathered around the table eating delicacies both savory and sweet. Piles of presents wrapped and placed under our Christmas trees so neat. And just for good measure we remember the babe in the manger, where farm animals are said to eat. Why would one want to leave this scene and to mention the cross? Because if we keep saying that Jesus is the greatest gift without the mention of this greatest affliction, we should count it great loss.
Every adventure has its dark moments, and it seems every year that I contemplate the advent of our Savior, the “little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay,” that it is not long before the images of passion week come into my readings or my mind. And as I was reading about the liturgical year, the author reminded me that while today we will sing and worship the newborn King, that every other day after this is marching us straight to the cross, the pinnacle of our experience of Jesus as our Savior.
To think on these things may be sobering, but they also bring about a mysterious hope. The cross was the unavoidable affliction that Jesus faced for us, yet he triumphed over it. Our hope is found in his resurrection. The hope of this season—a new birth—leads us to the wonderful news that we have access to new life ourselves.
The quest to follow the liturgical year for me is not just a religious checklist, but a desire to know the life of Jesus more fully, and to be willing to take up the cross of following him wherever this life leads me.
I want to leave you with a link to a very old poem that you may like to read and use in your contemplations of the Cross. The narrator of the poem has a vision of the cross, in which the cross is adorned with jewels. Further into his dream, the cross takes on a voice and tells from its perspective what the crucifixion was like. I like the creativity of this poem, and how the cross knew that Jesus willingly took his place on the cross. I would love to hear your thoughts on this poem, if you have a moment. The link takes you to a translation of the poem, it was originally written in Old English. Here it is: The Dream of the Rood (rood means cross).