“Cross” is a short word of only five letters, but break it apart and it contains the whole story of the Bible. C.R.O.S.S.—Creation, Redemption, One nation, Separation, Salvation. The story of the Bible is our story, too, and each of these stages helps us get the “big picture” of our life in Christ. The series begins here.
+ + + + + + +
A young girl and boy stood at the microphone, talking as though they didn’t see all the children in front of them.
“Are you serious?” the girl asked. “He just came up and shot him? In the back?”
This is not your usual Christmas pageant, I thought. Where they are going with it?
“It’s terrible,” said the boy. “I just don’t know how God could let that happen. Doesn’t he love us? Why doesn’t he do something?”
“Dude, he already did.”
“I guess I’m going to have to tell you the real story of Christmas.”
And the familiar story began. Children dressed in sheets and robes acted out the angel’s message to Mary, the journey to Bethlehem, the birth of the Christ Child. The shepherds and kings—and even Santa Claus, in this version—sought Jesus out and knelt before the manger. The entire cast broke into a hip-hop Gloria of praise.
A king in a cattle shed. Who would believe it? More to the point, I couldn’t help thinking as the nativity play ended, how does this story answer the boy’s questions? Doesn’t God love us? Why doesn’t he do something?
The girl was right. God already did. In the final stage of the story of the CROSS, the author enters the story. The second “S” in “CROSS” stands for Salvation.
What God did—through Jesus
The Jews of first-century Palestine expected God to come save them by raising a powerful king to defeat their enemies and establish peace by the sword. Instead, God came himself—in the person of Jesus. He was a defenseless baby boy, born to poor parents. He grew to be a respected teacher but was crucified like a common criminal in the prime of life. How does that help? Let’s look at what God did through the incarnation of Jesus:
Jesus came as a man.
No matter how hard we look, we can’t see God or touch him or even know who he is without his help. But God “sent his son”—he was born like us, as a human being—so we could relate to God and know him as a loving Father who would rather die than let us self-destruct.
Jesus destroyed death and the power of the devil.
God became a human so he could enter into our suffering, take the burden of sin to the grave, and bury it there. But death was not the end of Jesus. He rose from death, and in the process destroyed death’s power by turning it into the door to eternal life: anyone who is baptized into his death is filled with the new life of his Spirit to live in the hope of everlasting life with God.
Jesus established a kingdom.
During his earthly life, Jesus established a kingdom that transcends nationality and every kind of earthly division. That kingdom is heavenly and eternal but at the same time has “boots on the ground” here on earth. The Church is Jesus’s hands and feet, carrying out his mission of healing and feeding and reconciling people to each other and their heavenly Father.
Jesus remains with us still.
Having once come to earth, Jesus—“God with us”—did not leave us. “I am with you always,” he promised. And sure enough: after rising from the dead and appearing to many people, he ascended into heaven to rule his kingdom in glory. At the same time, he stays close to us: through his Word; by his Spirit living within us; in his Body, the Church; and in his Body and Blood offered to us in the Eucharist.
God doesn’t force anyone into his kingdom. As long as time lasts, there will be those who refuse him and his ways. Sin and suffering will continue to plague the world. But we don’t have to escape the world or our humanity to reach God. We hunger and thirst and cry out in our brokenness, and to each of us he comes as food and drink, as healing and rest and salvation. He walks beside us in our abandonment and pain and says, I’ve been there. Come to me and rest and be satisfied. Get to know me and the hope of my kingdom.
Where are you in the Story?
Do you sometimes wonder where God is in your life? He is with us! Jesus can be born in you spiritually, just as he was born physically in Mary more than 2,000 years ago. Seek him in the Eucharist. Adore him in the Blessed Sacrament. Hear him speak to you through his Word. Share your heart with him in prayer. When sin turns you away, seek his forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Find him in others, and be his hands and feet to help them.
Ponder these promises:
“Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
“For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39)
© 2016, 2021 Sarah Christmyer. This series on finding the “big picture” of the appeared originally on the American Bible Society’s leadership blog. Some editorial changes have been made.
+ + + + + + +
Enter into God’s Story with the Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree, using this free downloadable reading checklist. It gives you one Scripture reading a day for every day of December, starting with Creation and Adam and Eve and tracing through key people and events in God’s plan until it culminates with Jesus at Christmas.
You may also like this series on God’s plan in Scripture, which starts here: God Has a Plan!
Get the “big picture” before you study the Bible with The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study program. You can read the story of Scripture and journal as you go with The Bible Timeline Guided Journal.