On January 24, 2018, the Minnesota Vikings traveled to Philadelphia to play the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Because the game was played on a Sunday evening and we had a special event with our church, I did not watch the game, except for the first drive. In that first drive, the Vikings marched down the field and got a touchdown, taking an early 7-0 lead, and I remember thinking as I headed into our church’s fellowship hall, “My favorite team might be going to the Super Bowl!“
I was excited. You see, the Vikings were, at that time, 0-5 in NFC championship games since they had last made it to the Super Bowl in 1976. Yes, zero Super Bowl appearances in my lifetime.
Well, if you know much about the National Football League, you know the Vikings are now 0-6 in NFC championship games since last making it to the Super Bowl two years before I was born. In that aforementioned game back in 2018, the Vikings went on to get destroyed by the Eagles 38-7. Yes, that is correct – the Vikings scored on that first drive and then got outscored 38-0 the rest of the way. Ouch!
Incredibly hopeful heading to our church’s event that night, I was sorely disappointed when I later learned the Vikings were getting demolished. Such is the life of a Vikings fan. Maybe this year will be different, though! That is, after all, what I have been saying almost every single year my entire life. Maybe this is the year!
Looking back on those rare glimpses of hope – including the 1998 season that ended with the Vikings going 15-1, entering the playoffs as heavy Super Bowl favorites and then losing in overtime in the NFC championship game after the team’s previously-perfect-on-the-season kicker missed a seemingly easy game-sealing field goal in the indoor Metrodome toward the end of the fourth quarter – none of those glimpses of hope ended with joy. None.
Why did those seemingly joyous and hopeful seasons not end in joy? Because they ended in disappointment.
Truly, that is how Christmas would be if not for the cross. We would not be celebrating the birth of Jesus if not for the death and resurrection of Jesus. Without the cross, Jesus’ birth would be like the last six NFC championship game appearances for the Vikings – an exciting moment that only failed to bring joy.
Praise the Lord, though, that He did not fail to deliver. He is so much better than the best of victors in this life because His victory is certain and eternal.
On Christmas morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Isaiah 53 on “The Promise of Payment.” Some might think, “Wait, Isaiah 53?! Isn’t that a passage for Easter Sunday?” Yes, typically, but without our suffering Savior, we have no Christmas to celebrate.
The joy of Christmas is not really because of the Baby who was born as much as because of the sacrifice He made. Thus, we are going to fast forward to the end of the story and be challenged to celebrate Christmas by looking to the cross.
“He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
Christmas is on a Sunday this year! I love it! Let us worship the King (like always), while singing some of the best songs ever written, like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Praise God!