At Hope Women’s Center, we have been sharing the HOPE of Christmas with the women and families at each of our centers this month. A special Christmas message on the “Glorious Exchange” was shared with our staff & volunteer team at our Annual Christmas Brunch by Brianna VanderWeide, and we want to share it with you!
A Glorious Exchange
The story of Christmas usually begins with an angel meeting Mary and sharing with her that she would be the mother of Jesus, and that the birth would be supernatural because she was a virgin! So starting right there we see that the story of Christmas is all about faith! What a wild story, and that’s just the beginning, right?
Now her fiancé Joseph has to hear this information from an angel as well, in order to confirm her news so that he knows she is telling the truth. Then he gets to decide if he wants to marry her and raise Jesus even though their culture and family will most likely not believe their story.
To the outside world, they are having a baby outside of marriage, and the reason I want us to start there is because it is a beautiful reminder of the truth that our God is not threatened by what appears to be a scandalous story!
God often likes to show off in what appears to look quite messy in the beginning, doesn’t He?
So Mary and Joseph embrace the entrusted life of raising their divine Son. But because of a census they end up in a different city and there is no room so Mary has to give birth to Jesus in a stable full of animals and hay. Not only is Jesus making his entrance into a messy story, a family that would have had to endure gossip, judgment and scorn, but now He is being born in truly the lowliest place!
God isn’t afraid to begin His most epic story next to a bunch of farm animals. Sounds like the perfect way for Jesus to be born, at least in my opinion! The divine Shepherd who started his very story lying next to stinky sheep!
He doesn’t grow up in a famous family or in a mansion, instead his father is a hard-working carpenter and he grows up in Nazareth, a tiny farm town. It seems there is nothing royal about this Jesus.
So to us, it looks like the story of Christmas started here. But I want to suggest that the glorious exchange of Jesus taking our place began on the day He said to the Father, “Here am I. Send me. I will take their place.”
Just look at the passages that remind us of the truth that Jesus volunteered to be our Savior:
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”
Then Paul writes this letter to the Galatians in chapter 1, “Jesus gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.”
Let us be sure: God the Father did not force Jesus to die for us. Sometimes people assume the gospel story in that light. But that is dangerous to our knowledge of who Jesus really is and who our Father is in their relationship to each other and our relationship to them as One Divine God.
Do you see it? The beauty of a King who gave Himself up for us, a broken people? We broke the relationship, but He took it upon Himself to restore us to Him!
This is the majesty of JESUS:
He exchanged his crown for a cross.
He gave up His reign for our relationship.
He wore rags so we could wear robes.
He was born in the hay so we could rest in High Places.
He took on shame so we could have salvation.
Jesus chose not to come down on earth as royal but instead ordinary. He became ordinary that we might relate to Him, see Him as approachable, see Him as the flesh and blood who understands what we have been through because He chose to go through it, too.
He showed us that the ordinary becomes extraordinary when we submit our lives to the Father.
This is how Jesus felt about us and the cross. He loved us so much He took on full humanity so He could get close to us. So that we would let Him come close to us, because He is safe, He is real, He understands.
Think of the woman in Mark 5 who dared to touch the hem of His garment so she might be healed. Jesus was nothing like the religious leaders she had encountered. He made Himself touchable. She could get close!
And then He comforts her, and He comforts us, with the same comfort He was given by the Father when he bore the weight of humanity. He bore all of the emotions and experiences of life. He knows our battles because He chose to fight them, too.
I love how Hebrews 12:2 reveals His love: “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
According to scripture, those of us who are in Christ will be crowned in heaven by Jesus because of our obedience to Him on earth. Because of what Jesus has done, we will be crowned! How can this be?
I think based on passages written by John in Revelation it is safe to say we will joyfully rest our crowns back at His feet, for eternity with Him is more than enough reward for us. We just want His presence. We will get to heaven and Jesus will crown us with Righteousness but we will place our crowns back at His feet because everything will grow dim in the light of His glory and grace.
All applause is Yours, Jesus. We can’t believe you would exchange Your crown for us, Jesus. And now you give us a crown, too? Who is this God? What a Savior!
Those of you who volunteer to meet the needs of people without hope are just like Jesus. YOU give Hope a face! The face of Jesus shines THROUGH you!
When you minister to others, there is a mutual blessing that happens! Sometimes it’s a great sacrifice, maybe even a threat to your comfort, to say yes to helping others and meeting their needs. The enemy does everything in his power to keep you from getting there sometimes, doesn’t he? Somehow the traffic is worse when you are on your way to the Hope Women’s Center? Somehow your kids fight a bit more and you feel angsty and strange on the days before your hours to serve? Your enemy knows the joy and the blessing before you, and he does his best to discourage you, but still you fight to get there. You know why have to be there. Every one of those moments spent with these women leaves you filled with passion. You are overjoyed. You are humbled. You can’t believe you get to be the one to love them today.
Like Jesus, your sacrifice begins to feel like joy.
Jesus gave up His heavenly crown, came to die on a cross and wear a crown of thorns, and when He looked to the thief at His side, He pictured the man with a crown of glory. Can you imagine it? A king giving His crown to a thief? And not stopping there, taking his full punishment? It was for the JOY set before Him that He exchanged Himself in death so WE could wear a crown.
Zechariah 9:16 sums this up perfectly, “The LORD their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown.”
Every woman you encourage is hearing you declare HOPE and newness over their lives, and you get to bring light into their dark places. You sparkle for the Lord!
Can you imagine in heaven that all of the women you have introduced to Jesus will stand and say, “that woman, right there- she pointed me to Jesus! I stand here today because of her love, sacrifice, and kindness!”
And you will declare just as Jesus did: Oh sister, it was for the JOY set before me!