The Fourth Watch

By Pastor Dwight K. Nelson

Apr
20
April 20, 2022

What’s not to like about this “headline” yesterday from the U.S. Department of Education? In an April 19 tweet the department “announced steps to address historical federal student loan program failures, helping at least 3.6 million federal student loan borrowers move closer to forgiveness—including immediate forgiveness for ~40,000 borrowers” (go.usa.gov/xuZXM). 

Did you catch that? “Immediate forgiveness for ~40,000 borrowers.”

Anybody with a student loan these days knows the surprise good news embedded in that headline! Kirk and Chelsea, our son and daughter-in-law, are fondly reminded of their happy days at Andrews University (where they met) every time another student loan payment comes due. I can imagine this headline has already triggered a huge sigh of relief across the land.

“Immediate forgiveness for at least 40,000 borrowers”—sounds like a headline from Heaven, doesn’t it?

What sinner wouldn’t love to receive a press release from God announcing “immediate forgiveness” for their sorry record of unimaginable indebtedness to purity and morality and kindness and honesty and other integrity challenged, unloving ways of sinful living?

Just a few days after Easter as we are now, turns out there is a loan-forgiveness you can take to the Bank of Heaven! Remember that stunning Good Friday prayer Jesus breathed aloud for His executioners? “‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing'” (Luke 23:34). Let’s be honest—it hardly seems plausible, much less possible to buy the suggestion that those who were nailing Jesus to the cross, who had already scourged Him with that brutal flogging, did not know what they were doing. Of course they knew! Some of them no doubt even relished the chance to torture the Prisoner the way they did. “Father, forgive them?”

Talking about an “immediate forgiveness” news flash. But actually, the headline gets even more stunning and expansive. Brood over this line from Desire of Ages: “That prayer of Christ for His enemies embraced the world. It took in every sinner that had lived or should live, from the beginning of the world to the end of time. Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God. To all, forgiveness is freely offered. 'Whosoever will' may have peace with God, and inherit eternal life” (745, emphasis supplied). Read it one more time just to make sure you read it right.

“[Jesus’ prayer of forgiveness] took in every sinner that had lived [our ancestors] or should live [us], from the beginning of the world [Adam and Eve] to the end of time [sinners yet to be born].”

Almost unbelievable! “Immediate forgiveness” not just for 40,000—but forgiveness for billions and billions of sinners past, present and future! I’m not making this up. All because of that suffering prayer from the Man on the center cross.

But of course—reality-check-time means that just like the student loan borrowers, everyone of us has the choice to believe the headline or to dismiss it. The Department of Education can announce the student loan forgiveness provision, but every borrower is still free to choose whether to believe and receive the forgiveness or to go on month after month after month trying to pay off a loan that seems forever. 

How sad not believing and receiving turns out to be. Which is why I invite you to breathe the prayer right now that claims this promise of “immediate forgiveness”: “Dear Savior—I bow before the profound recognition that Your prayer on Calvary was breathed for me, too. And so I cry out, ‘Me, too!’ I gratefully receive Your immediate forgiveness of my awful debt from my terrible sins—past, present and future. May the peace of your grace now sweep over my grateful and forgiven heart. May the strength of Your courage enable me to seek forgiveness from those I’ve wronged. And as I have freely received from You, even so let me freely give to those who need my forgiveness, too. I love You back, Jesus. Every day. Forever. Amen."

Apr
13
April 13, 2022

In a world already irreparably fractured, Russia’s attacks on Ukraine over the last one month and three weeks—chronicled across the earth through live video feeds—have diminished any hope of global healing. 

And yet many, who regard the pope as the most widely recognized religious leader in the world, harbor the hope Pope Francis might even yet this Easter spark a miracle of peace for the war in Ukraine, or at least a ceasefire.

After all, in his weekly audience on April 13, the pope admonished: “The peace that Jesus brings 'does not overpower others . . . It is not an armed peace.’ Instead, ‘The weapons of the Gospel are prayer, tenderness, forgiveness, and freely-given love for one’s neighbour, to any neighbour.' This, he said, ‘is how God’s peace is brought into the world’” (www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2022-04/pope-at-audience-war-is-an-outrage-and-a-blasphemy.html).

However, this papal homily on peace notwithstanding, the Vatican’s decision to have a woman from Ukraine and a woman from Russia walk side by side through the traditional stations of the cross on Good Friday this week did not sit well with Ukrainian Catholics or their archbishop leader: “‘I consider such an idea inopportune, ambiguous and such that it does not take into account the context of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine,' said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of Ukraine’s Byzantine-rite Catholic Church” (www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/pope-francis-vatican-russia-ukraine-good-friday-b2057137.html).

But “Reverend Antonio Spadaro, a close aide of Pope Francis, has defended the decision, telling the Italian state broadcaster Rai that the pope is 'a pastor, not a politician’” (ibid).

Leaving that observation aside, one must admit the pope faces both a pastoral and a political challenge. Political because he is considered the head of the Vatican state, and pastoral because ostensibly he is the shepherd of all his flock which includes both Russia and Ukraine. 

So what would the Good Shepherd Himself do, what would He say? “‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’” (Luke 12:14). Jesus usually remained above the fray and resisted being drawn into internecine squabbles. Or, “‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword’” (Matthew 10:34)? Here He specifically addresses family fractures that will turn members of the same household against each other. Or, “‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’” (Matthew 5:9).

Perhaps that line more than any other defines His disciples in this broken world. Even in our own church Ukrainians and Russians, Croats and Serbs, Muslims and Jews, Taiwanese and Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, Blacks and Whites indeed do kneel side by side in worshiping the Creator of us all. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” because while war is inevitable, peace is not. Peace is hard-won, hard-lived, hard-fought, hard sought. But peace is the high calling of the Risen Christ for all His followers. 

“Christ is 'the Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6), and it is His mission to restore to earth and heaven the peace that sin has broken. . . . The heart that is in harmony with God is a partaker of the peace of heaven and will diffuse its blessed influence on all around. The spirit of peace will rest like dew upon hearts weary and troubled with worldly strife. Christ's followers are sent to the world with the message of peace” (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing 27-28).

Then let that peace be what the “children of God” pray for and work for beyond this Easter. Thus truly blessed will we be.

Mar
30
March 30, 2022

The conflagration they are calling the Russia-Ukraine war (now five weeks long) has introduced to global humanity the power of a united economic embargo. Simply put—what we are witnessing is the strategic punitive enforcement of no-buy/no-sell prohibitions slapped on a nation-state and its leaders, deemed by global powers to be out of harmony with the group-think of the enforcing alliance(s). 

For the sake of argument consider for a moment these economic embargoes levied against Russia and some of its leaders.

What has become evident (very quickly) is the punishing effect these recent embargoes are having on both the political apparatus and social calculus of Russia. No matter how strong the punished nation may have deemed itself to be, the net effect has been the collapse of the nation’s currency and economic stability. The long-range effects of these punitive actions I will leave to the economists to assess.

My point is simple. A careful reading of the Apocalypse reveals a predicted global embargo shortly before the return of Christ. Not an embargo against a member state or nation of the world community, but rather an economic embargo levied against a category of people. 

“The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Revelation 13:15-17).
Most people in the faith community I belong to immediately recognize this apocalyptic prediction. Unmistakably it reveals a universal no buy/no sell embargo on a class of people obviously deemed to be enemies of global peace and unity, enemies of the state, if you please. The reason for this international embargo appears to be this community’s refusal to obey a universal decree to worship some sort of idolatrous counterfeit to the Creator. Because of their conscientious civil disobedience, they are slapped not only with a no-buy/no sell embargo but eventually are threatened with capital punishment for such disobedience.

For the first time in a lifetime, we are witnessing the stunning and crippling effect united economic embargoes can have on a people, once leaders of ruling powers unite in imposing punitive action. Suddenly the apocalyptic prediction of another such global embargo becomes entirely plausible. In this electronic age of high-tech buying and selling, all it takes is the flipping of a switch, so to speak, to freeze a person’s or a people’s assets. Locked out by a no-buy/no sell electronic command? Piece of cake.

While God doesn’t promise cake, His quiet assurance is still good news: “They [the obedient] are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them” (Isaiah 33:16). 

Which being interpreted means the friends of Jesus have nothing to fear for the future. “Bread and water” may seem humble fare, but it has been the diet of the faithful throughout the ages. With a God like Him and a promise like this, we have every reason to sing, “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow . . . Great is Thy faithfulness! Lord unto me!” (Hymn 100).

Mar
23
March 23, 2022

Have you noticed? Life doesn’t always happen this dreadfully slow (the waning pandemic) or this dangerously fast (the Russia-Ukraine war)—but life keeps happening. And so to celebrate the good-news, upside of life this springtime comes a new worship series—“Sign Me Up!”—a fresh invitation to find new life in volunteer service. 

The pandemic effectively pinned down the church and the nation, keeping many of us from social involvement and volunteer engagement. But now with a diminishing health threat, new opportunities for renewed service come cheerfully knocking at our door. 

“Sign Me Up!” explores a host of ways you and I can re-immerse ourselves (as disciples of Jesus) in our post-pandemic world of burgeoning needs and re-emerge from the shadows of the pandemic into the sunnier spring Sabbaths ahead. Welcome to you, welcome to new life, welcome to Pioneer!

March 26        “Good-bye Pandemic, Hello Refugees—Sign Me Up!” (Celebration of His Cross)

April 2             “Why Some of Your Friends Are Flourishing in a Languishing World—Sign Me Up!”

April 9             “Sleep in Heavenly Peace in the Inner City—Sign Me Up!” (Taurus Montgomery) 

April 16           “Albert Einstein’s Secret to Happiness—Sign Me Up!” (Celebration of His Resurrection)

April 23           “Mr. Bingle’s Old Coat—Sign Me Up!” 

April 30           “Do Justice—Sign Me Up!”

Mar
9
March 9, 2022

Our team is headed this week to the Republic of Palau (a small archipelago nation of 340 islands—southeast of Guam and west of the Philippines—population 18,000+). Its president, Surangel Whipps, Jr., is an active Seventh-day Adventist and has assisted Ann Hamel, psychologist and team leader for this mission, as she and the team have planned for the world premiere of the documentary “Return to Palau” on Wednesday, March 16, 7 PM GMT (13 hours ahead of EST) in Koror.

“Return to Palau” is the tragic story of the December 21, 2003, brutal late-night murder of three members of the DePaiva missionary family (father, mother, and son), pastoring the Koror Seventh-day Adventist church. The lone survivor, ten-year-old Melissa, was abducted by the killer and later tossed down a ravine.

Shaken by this unprecedented tragedy, the island nation faced a time of national soul-searching. Days later word spread throughout Palau of the in-person forgiveness extended to the murderer by the mother and grandmother of the victims. More recently Melissa has also extended the same in-person forgiveness to the one who robbed her of her family. 

Now, nearly twenty years later, this profound documentary narrative of supernatural forgiveness is the theme for the world premiere on March 16. 

Please pray the Spirit of Jesus will ignite this public moment of remembrance. Young Melissa Gibson, now a nursing professor at Southwestern Adventist University, along with her husband Michael, one of the pastors of the campus church, will be part of the premiere event. For three evenings following the showing, my assignment is to preach in the convention center the forgiveness all can find in Christ our Lord. Join us in earnestly praying that out of this unspeakable heartache, God will—as only He can—turn such terrible loss into an eternal harvest for His Kingdom.

Follow Return to Palau on Facebook | Instagram

Mar
2
March 2, 2022

For seven days now the world has looked on with handwringing concern as an aggressor nation has invaded a neighboring country. It is our human (and Christian) tendency to identify the villain, take sides in the conflict and pray (usually) for the underdog. 

The stunning real-time coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the horrific footage of war’s exploding carnage, and the consequent flight of tens of thousands of wives, mothers, and children have tugged at all our hearts. Their bitter tears are soul-churning. Will these families be reunited?

But we do well to remember on the other side of the border are countless Russian mothers and wives somewhere worrying, somewhere praying for the deliverance of their boys (literally cadet youth pressed into service for the Motherland). Where is the heart of our maternal God in war between the children?

“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15).

“War is hell”—words originally attributed to Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman—remains undisputed. After only seven days of it who in Ukraine or Russia would disagree?

But we must be reminded—behind the miasma of human wartime suffering is a single dark mind. “Satan delights in war, for it excites the worst passions of the soul and then sweeps into eternity its victims steeped in vice and blood. It is his object to incite the nations to war against one another, for he can thus divert the minds of the people from the work of preparation to stand in the day of God” (Great Controversy 589).

Who is surprised at this prophetic disclosure? From the beginning, the evil genius of the fallen covering cherub—his first taste of human blood spilled from the battered Abel—has masterminded the deadly art of war in order to rush human beings into Christless graves. “And there was war in heaven” . . . and there is war on earth.

But in a war between Christian nations how does Heaven respond? How should we pray? Remember the truth about God: “The Lord is . . . not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV). Or as Eugene Peterson paraphrased it: “He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change” (Message).

The truth today is He is giving all of us—Russians, Ukrainians, Americans alike—“space and time to change.” This is why it is both right and essential for the friends of Jesus to cry out on behalf of any deadly war: “O Savior, hold back the winds of strife that all might yet come to know You.” Let every video clip of fighting become a call to seek the victims' salvation.

And if your heart is moved with the plight of the fleeing refugees, why not go to www.adra.org (Adventist Development Relief Agency) to make a donation to their refugee emergency interventions on both sides of the borders.

Because the good news for “Rachel weeping for her children” is this response from Heaven: “‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,' declares the Lord. 'They will return from the land of the enemy. . . . Your children will return to their own land’” (Jeremiah 31:16-17).

It may be a wartime promise fulfilled only in eternity—but it is still a promise we must claim for all.

Feb
2
February 2, 2022

I suppose the whole world knows who Phil of Punxsutawney is. And what’s not to like about that huggable, furry underground critter who cautiously pokes his head from his den every February 2, and predicts America’s weather pattern for the next six weeks? Be advised he’s a lot older than he looks since he has been plying his meteorological art since 1887!

And you know what? He’s giving competition to the two-legged weather forecasters who led this university to declare a snow day a day in advance a few weeks ago—closing down classes and the campus (all based, of course, on sophisticated meteorologic computer prognostications). But we awakened the next morning to only a thin layer of snow across the lawn. Oh well, what’s not to like about a free snow day! (Actually, I'm writing this on another snow day, and the advance call on this one was spot on—the snow is really coming down—Karen and I shoveled the driveway this morning—and it’ll need it again later today.)

As for Phil the celebrity groundhog forecaster in Punxsutawney, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and his local handlers, he “has forecasted six more weeks of winter 105 times since 1887” (richmond.com/weather/where-groundhog-day-came-from-and-why-we-love-it/article_2804b476-9329-53cf-ad9f-394eb1eb55ba.html). And how many of those times did we actually have six more weeks of winter? Forty-two times, giving Phil an accuracy rate of 40%—pretty good odds—which, as every baseball fan knows, batting .400 puts you in the superstar range. Unfortunately, Phil isn’t trying out for the New York Yankees (though they could use his batting average). According to SciJinks, the NOAA website: “A seven-day forecast can accurately predict the weather about 80 percent of the time and a five-day forecast can accurately predict the weather approximately 90 percent of the time. However, a 10-day—or longer—forecast is only right about half the time” (scijinks.gov/forecast-reliability/). Sorry, Phil.

Anybody want to predict how long this planet is going to last? Hardly! One thing’s for sure—I don’t want to end up being like the mockers Peter critiqued: 

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly (2 Peter 3:3-7).

Peter’s point? The global deluge God promised and Noah predicted turned out to have a 100% accuracy rating, despite the howling critics and scoffers who suffered a 0% accuracy rating. When it comes to the end of the world—whether by water or by fire—we are far better off standing with God, wouldn’t you agree?

Punxsutawney Phil provides us all a cute mid-winter diversion. But he’s just a groundhog after all. If we're really serious about what is yet to come, you can’t beat the accuracy rating of the One who has promised—“‘Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done’” (Revelation 22:12). Jesus is still 100% the Savior, 100% on your side, 100% coming in your lifetime, and 100% eager for you to give yourself 100% to Him. So stick with the numbers and stay with Him—you cannot beat those odds.

Jan
5
January 5, 2022

A friend of mine whispered to me the other day his conviction that the eventual downfall of the American democracy will be traced to January 6, 2021, and the mob attack on Capitol Hill. My eyebrows arched, considering the bright mind and respected scholarship behind the whisper. But then everybody has an opinion these days, have you noticed?

Nevertheless, with the one-year anniversary upon us, it is prudent we pause and reflect on this New Year’s “new normal.” On the health front, the Covid-19 pandemic surges with the Omicron variant—we all know—but there is hope its surge will not reflect a sharp rise in mortality rates as well. And on the political front, there's no need to even review its landscape—we've already formed our own conclusions about all of that, irrespective of what news outlets may tell us to the contrary. But then, welcome to life in America today.

My concern for us is on the spiritual front. How is it with your soul and mine? Are we closer to the Savior this New Year than last New Year? Is the Spirit of God finding fuller access to our private lives and personal decisions, our practice behind closed doors? 

Consider this ancient prayer in the old King James Bible: “My soul followeth hard after thee” (Psalm 63:8). “I cling to you” is the same prayer in our own vernacular (NIV). But do we . . . do you . . . do I . . . follow hard after God . . . cling to Him?

A. W. Tozer, in his long-ago The Pursuit of God, reflected on the psalmist’s prayer and then made this appeal:

I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality of our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain. (p17, emphasis supplied)

Did you catch that? “He waits to be wanted.” I know you want Him and so do I. But is it a “My soul followeth hard after Thee” kind of want? How hard do we really want Him?

Maybe our New Year prayer ought to be, “Lord, help me to want to want You.” As Tozer noted, “He waits to be wanted.” As Ellen White often observed, we must “be willing to be made willing.” So why not ask Christ to mentor us into a deeper wanting, a following hard after Him this New Year? “Lord, help me to want to want You.”

Given the trajectory of this nation, it is hardly rocket (let alone political) science to recognize what we once prized as a nation is slipping away and could suddenly be taken away. If ever this secular country needed God—and by that I mean the people we work with and pray for—this would be the right time to personally model to them a deeper devotion to Christ, a following hard after Him. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with such a friend of Jesus? “Lord, help me to want to want You."

Clearly, this wanting must begin with us—we can’t wait for America. So to help answer our own prayer, “Help me to want to want You,” the practice of the ancients (and of those who walk with Jesus today—and you know who they are) must become ours. Begin each day with a less hurried, and more deliberate meditating on Holy Scripture verse by verse, joined to an uninterrupted conversation with God through prayer. The books on how to do it are legion. But the prayer to go deeper is ours. 

“Lord, help me to want to want You.”

Dec
22
December 22, 2021

Those are the last words of 30-year-old Shakar Ali Pirot, one of over thirty Middle East migrants who perished in the English Channel a few nights ago, their desperate flight to freedom ending tragically.

In this case, the electronically captured recording of the cry for help from the sinking dinghy says it all: “We are still in the sea between the UK and France. We're not sure which is coming [to rescue us]” (www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-b7bd2274-88b1-4ef9-a459-be22e180b52c).

By the time authorities were alerted and responded it was too late. “The BBC has confirmed at least 30 people died that night, by far the worst migrant tragedy ever recorded in the Channel. We have established, through help from many families in Iraqi Kurdistan, the identities of 20 of those on board” (ibid). Two survived.

How can the rest of the world ever get used to stories like this—whether the migrants are east or south or west of us? Smuggled in trucks or dinghies or swimming the currents or climbing the border fences—it is the sad plight of men, women, and children succumbing to their calculated risks for the sake of a new life. 

“We are still in the sea . . . not sure [who] is coming.”

But is that not also the cry of a desperate world this Christmastime 2021? Nobody, it seems, is sure who is coming to their rescue. The global medical community valiantly battles new variants of Covid-19, hospitals across the land overflowing with people desperate to be saved. The victims of “the longest continuous path record” for a tornado now pick through the rubble of their former lives in Kentucky. Innuendos and nascent rumors of impending civil war in this nation stoke the fears of a divided people.

“We are still in the sea . . . not sure [who] is coming.”

Was it any different when Messiah came the first time? So should we be that startled to realize it is deja vu all over again, two millennia later?

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

The One who came is the One who is coming. Thus those critical keywords—government, counselor, mighty, peace—find “re-solution” in this divine One. How else will Earth’s travail be resolved? 

Salaam, shalom, peace—may the promise of Christ this Christmas undergird our voyage into the uncharted year ahead: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

“We are still in the sea . . . but we know Who is coming.” 

Dec
15
December 15, 2021

A few days ago the Wild family—Mom and Dad and their two children—living on the Western Cape of South Africa were decorating their Christmas tree, a familiar holiday ritual. With the last ornament tucked onto a lighted branch, they all stepped back (you know the drill) to admire their blinking, glittering Yuletide creation. The requisite chorus of oohs and ahhs declared a job well done!

Except that Mother noticed the two pet cats, for some strange reason, also apparently admiring the tree. “Looks like we’ve got a mouse in our branches,” she pointed at the cats. But when the family tracked the cats’ unblinking stares back to the tree, it was no mouse emerging. The collective gasp was over the writhing, protruding head, and body of a four-foot-long boomslang, the most venomous snake in South Africa. Freeze!

Father moved first, grabbing his phone, snapping some pix and texting them to an animal handler he knew. A phone call confirmed they had a deadly boomslang in their home, its venom was able to shut off blood coagulation leading to death by bleeding.

For two hours the family, hardly daring to breathe, kept vigil on the snake in the tree, as the handler raced through the countryside to their home. But when he walked in, the snake dropped from the Christmas tree to the floor, slithering toward the couch to a chorus of screams. But the snake handler's long iron prongs snatched the snake and bagged it. Confirmation—a boomslang indeed.

Apparently, the snake had entered the home, confused but unnoticed, and had sought refuge in the Christmas tree. The handler later released the snake into the wild—far, far away from the Wild’s home, you can sure.

A poisonous Christmas tree. But then, isn’t that the story of Christmas? Wasn’t the Baby of the Bethlehem manger “the Word made flesh,” sent as a divine emissary to this rebel planet, born so that He might eventually die for the salvation of the fallen race?

And didn’t the grown-up Jesus once declare that “‘as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him’”? (John 3:14-15).

Born in a wooden manger, dead on a wooden cross—all for what? “[He] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes [we] are healed’” (1 Peter 2:24 NKJV, emphasis supplied). 

Hoisted like a snake on Calvary’s tree, the Savior of the world bore our poison and died for our rescue. The truth is you cannot separate the Christmas cradle from the Calvary cross—for the salvation we celebrate today was only possible by the Savior lying in the one and dying on the other. Profound mystery, relentless truth: “‘Herein is love.’ Wonder, O heavens! and be astonished, O earth!” (Desire of Ages 49).