The Shadow of a Cross

by Joel Bidderman

John 3:16-17 God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him.

Philippians 2:5-11 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I remember it pretty well. It was a couple years in - ministering to Navajo and Apache youth. Christmas was rolling around, and I had very little money to live on (let alone buy Christmas presents) – as a young adult, missionary, and musician, things would often get tight financially. So, that year I spent time racking my brain to think of how to ‘do’ presents for my parents, with a $0 budget. So, that year as a musician/singer/songwriter I decided I’d do the ‘little drummer boy thing’ and bring the only thing I had: my music (fortunately, guitar isn’t as loud as drums). I wrote a song for my mother – a 'coming home for Christmas' song, and for my father I wrote a more theological kind of song (he is a minister, and now retired prison chaplain).

As I thought about the birth of Christ, I thought about how it was such a curious place in the narrative of God’s redeeming work and mission. It was so understated. Incarnation, not into a palace with royalty, but into poverty. And not to mention the obscurity of it all. I mean, it wouldn’t have even been noticed if it weren’t for the surprise announcement party thrown for shepherds (who were pretty much nobodies) along with their livestock. For everyone else looking on, it may have looked like a young couple whose luck was down – who had to not only sleep in the place where they also kept animals, but also had to deliver a baby there. But it was much more, of course.

It was:
“An answer to the pleas
Reaching to all of humanity
Safety from the mire, the pit, and clay
Answering night with the light of day”

Because, in this odd setting where to the original viewers it may have seemed like Murphy’s Law was ruling the day – something very intentional was happening. A plan was unfolding. This baby lying in a makeshift cradle made from and animal’s trough, was born to be the savior of the world.
“A brow born to bleed
Hands made to be pierced for our iniquities
While heaven opens up to decree
That this baby born is a king
From the joy of an animal trough
Dons the shadow of a cross”

So, I’d like to share my father’s gift with you. Here is the song I wrote him entitled, “The Shadow of a Cross.”


As we have spent time exploring the incarnation this season, what is something new that you’ve learned, or have seen in a different light, this year?


An Advent Examen
  • Review the past few weeks (the season of Advent) with gratitude. Give thanks and celebrate the gifts that you received from God and others.
  • Looking back over the events of the past few weeks of Advent, which have been most life-giving? Which have been life-draining? What have been some of the key emotions for you?
  • Choose one feature, memory, or event from this Advent and pray from it. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring one element of this season to your mind. Focus specifically on that experience and sit with it prayerfully.
  • Look toward tomorrow – Christmas Eve. As you look, allow God to shape a prayer within you. Write that prayer out and return to it tomorrow and Christmas day.