Some years back, my husband was a pastor in far west Texas. He led our church to hold an annual evangelistic crusade in a mountain amphitheater. Although it was difficult in that city to get new people to come to the church building, in this beautiful outdoor setting, the attendance was always very good.
A large cross, illumined by spotlights, was placed strategically behind the stage area. No one attending the services could miss seeing the old rugged cross on the hill. The cross was central in the preaching and the music. Many people were saved as a result of the crusades.
Set up and tear down of the equipment was an all day affair, involving many people and much labor. One year, when things that were to be carried back to the church had all been loaded on the trucks and the tear down team was ready to drive away, my husband heard one of the clean up crew for the amphitheater cry out, “Hey, mister, you forgot your cross!” Sure enough, the cross still stood on that hill, alone, and forgotten. My husband has never forgotten the implications of that oversight, nor have I.
For many years, I have observed preachers and churches who have forgotten the cross. No one seems to be offended with stories about Jesus, the nativity, the miracles and the parables. However, when the whole gospel is preached and the cross is included, there is a different reaction, sometimes a violent one. Preachers are tempted to leave the cross out of the gospel in order to reach the crowds. People would rather hear a motivational message loosely based on scripture than the whole gospel, with the terrible reality that it was our sin that nailed the Son of God to the cross.
The sweet story of the nativity has to include the horrors of the cross and the glory of the resurrection. Jesus paid for the sins of mankind on His cross. After His resurrection, He sat down at the right hand of the Father, His mission complete. The whole story of Jesus must include the cross and the resurrection.
Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said…And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world (1 Corinthians 15:3-4,17-19 NLT).