As Christians we know that the best things often come in threes, including the very best thing of all: the Persons of the Godhead. And the entire creation springing forth from that Triunity very often breaks down fractally into threes: length, width and height; past, present and future; solid, liquid and vapor; body, soul and spirit. Similarly, in examining the life and calling of the eternal Son of God as manifest in His incarnation, its trajectory breaks down into three distinct and very key stages: creche, cross and crown.
Ah, the creche! So great the mystery therein that the angels of God came to behold; longing (in the Greek “hungering with an intensity bordering on lust” (1 Peter 1:12b) is more accurate) to look into the mystery of the Gospel. And what a soothing thought it is for many. What’s more adorable or less intimidating than a baby? And so the manger, as important as it truly is, becomes the virtual box that many people, including more than a few ministers, like to try and keep Jesus in. Meek and mild, loving everybody; a Messiah who’s no more capable of “sheep and goats” judgments and expressing wrath than a nursing infant.
But why the creche in the first place? It was stage one of a three-stage rocket – a sling that inexorably shot the smooth stone of Jesus’ incarnated life into the forehead of the great serpent-beast. The manger promised Him, betrothed Him to the cross. “Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” (John 12:27) “…the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28) “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) Without the cross, the creche is drained of both meaning and significance. And our redemption, regardless of whatever warm fuzzies we may experience singing “Away in a manger,” is but vapor. Furthermore, without a desire to pick up our own cross, to die to ourselves and follow Christ, that vapor may be condensed into something watery through the machinations of formal religion. But it will never produce the solid ground on which we will need to stand on that Great Day.
But true Christianity doesn’t stop at the cross, or even the empty tomb. (Sadly, many if not most true Christians in the West today have been blinded to this third stage.) Perhaps the greatest mystery of all is how the first fruits of the New Creation, the glorified, transfigured second Adam – the Son of Man – crossed the membrane of this world and stepped into the one to come. He marched through ancient gates and sat down – as a Man – on the throne of both heaven and earth. (Emphasis mine) He received back the glory He had set aside (Phil. 2:7) – and more besides. He was crowned and given a scepter (we should ever remember that a king’s scepter is just an ornate war club), which He in turn extends over His bride the Church with the command to rule over His enemies. (Psalm 110:2). And so by faith we are more than conquerors. (Rom 8:37) And as conquerors it is inevitable that we shall one day join our Beloved, the prince of Peace, in crushing Satan under our feet. (Rom. 16:20)
In this present age, by the way, and not just in the one to come. (Eph. 1:19-22; 2 Thess. 2: 8)