The Cradle and the Cross: Connecting Christmas and John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Christmas! For many, it’s a time of absolute joy and celebration, while for others, it’s a time they wish they could skip. Some see it as a wonderful time with family and friends, where laughter and gifts are exchanged. Still, for others, it amplifies their loneliness, lack, and sorrow. Christmas is, in fact, a time where love, care, and generosity increase, but so does consumerism, overindulgence, and selfishness. Today, many kids associate Christmas with Santa Claus coming to town to bring gifts to the nice children, rather than recognizing it as the time when God came to Bethlehem two thousand years ago, giving His Son as a gift to save even the naughty ones.

Santa or Jesus?

Still for many around the world, Christmas means absolutely nothing. Many nations that were once majority Christian, including Canada and the USA, are not only post-Christian today but are also increasingly anti-Christian. As time passes, an increasing number of families and kids in the West know less about the real reason for Christmas, even though there are no laws (yet) against evangelism and conversion. When I was growing up as a child in the Islamic Republic of Iran, I never once heard or saw anything that had to do with Christmas. Not only did I remain oblivious to the made-up and fictitious story about Santa Claus from the North Pole, traveling the world in one night, coming down the chimney to place gifts under Christmas trees, but I also never heard anyone share the true reason for celebrating Christmas—the historical reason: that God came down by becoming human through the virgin birth of baby Jesus in Bethlehem, in a manger. Unfortunately, this is a common reality for many people in Iran and other Muslim countries, where it is against the law to share the Gospel with Muslims, and the penalty for evangelism and conversion is imprisonment or even death. However, this still does not deter many Christians from discreetly yet boldly and successfully advancing the Gospel in Iran and other hostile countries.

Saving Knowledge

In Islam, Jesus is only recognized as a prophet sent by God, not as God incarnate. For me, there was no connection between the cradle, the cross and the crown. I had not come in contact with the saving knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). No one had told me that Jesus was the Word and the Word was God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, enduring a shameful death on the cross as the propitiation for the sins of the world (John 1:14; 1 John 2:2). I was uninformed that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again triumphantly on the third day. He ascended to heaven, where He was crowned and seated on His throne at the right hand of God as the King of kings. I was unaware of the extent of God’s love for me and the depth of my wretchedness until I heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, revealing that God gave His only Son so that through faith in Him, I could have eternal life and not perish. The perfect, eternal, and holy Son of God was given so that my imperfect and unholy soul could be saved through His life, death, and resurrection. By the grace of God, I received eternal life when I wholeheartedly embraced this truth about His marvelous plan of salvation through faith.


This underscores the importance of the Church’s calling to share the message of John 3:16—not only for clergy, missionaries, and evangelists, but for all Christians who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to go and be witnesses. For example, if a lay person from Coastal Church had not told my mom about Jesus and invited her to church, then she would not have known, and my sister and I would also not have heard the Gospel. The call to be God’s hands, feet, and mouthpiece extends beyond Christmas to encompass the entire year.

Some are specially called as missionaries to relocate to places like Iran and passionately share the transformative message of the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ with people intentionally and actively kept in the dark by both spiritual forces and their government from hearing the Gospel. It’s important to note that every believer is uniquely gifted and called to go. However, not everyone is called to be a missionary in the traditional sense—moving geographically and demographically. Nevertheless, all Christians are called to gently and respectfully share the reason for the hope within them right where they live, attend school, shop for groceries, get haircuts, go to the gym, and enjoy their favorite coffee (1 Peter 3:15-16).

No Greater Gift

When we fall in love with Jesus and start following Him, we also begin to love what God loves. God loves the world, and He desires the salvation of people through the message about His Son. Christmas serves as a poignant reminder that God has given us the greatest gift—His best, His unique and beloved Son. Moreover, He calls us to share this precious gift with the rest of the world (Matthew 28:19-20). The world stood condemned under the weight of sin when Jesus came to earth, and He came to bear the world’s sin upon Himself on the cross as the God-man (John 3:17-19).

What a wonder is it that two natures infinitely distant should be more intimately united than anything in the world, and yet without any confusion! That the same person should have both a glory and a grief; an infinite joy in the Deity, and an inexpressible sorrow in the humanity; that a God upon a throne should be an infant in a cradle; the thundering Creator be a weeping babe and a suffering man. These are such expressions of mighty power, as well as condescending love, that they astonish men upon earth and angels in heaven.  – Stephen Charnock

Man or God?

Truly, what a wonder it is that the second person of the Holy Trinity would become man—fully God and fully man. Christmas is about the Creator’s love for His creation. It’s about the Creator becoming part of His creation. The rich and powerful became poor and weak. The eternal Son left His home in glory to find His dwelling among the lost, last, and least. The One through whom all things were created, and for whom they were created, became part of time, space, and matter (Col. 1:17). Truly God and truly man. Dual in nature. The everlasting Son of God became human without inheriting sin through the miraculous virgin birth, as the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, and she miraculously conceived Jesus (Luke 1:35).

God the Father sent Jesus to be our representative and perfectly fulfill the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17). Just as Adam and Eve, the first humans, failed horribly in obeying and loving God, so do we. Their sin incurred the judgment of God, and the only just punishment for such high treason is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus, the second Adam, perfectly obeyed and loved God the Father. Besides perfect obedience, Jesus took on flesh and blood in order to be our substitutionary sacrifice on the cross, paying for our sin penalty. Because of our alienation from God by sin, we needed an all-sufficient Mediator to represent us to the Holy God of the universe. As the Bible affirms: “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Without the love and grace of God, there would be no incarnation. Without the cradle, there would be no saving cross; without the cross, there would be no payment for our sins. Without this sufficient payment, there would be no resurrection from the dead and no promise of eternal life. But praise God that He so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

Glory to God the Father,
Glory to God the Son,
Glory to God the Spirit,
God Almighty, Three in One!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Glory to him alone.  

Gloria Patri