He is known in some circles as “The Lights Murderer” – a title that aptly describes a senseless and dreadful seasonal crime.
In Louisa, Virginia, Timothy Sanner was sentenced last Monday to life plus three years for first-degree murder and felonious use of a firearm. Back in January, the 54-year old Sanner shot his wife with a .22 caliber rifle after she demanded that he leave their Christmas lights up a bit longer. He wanted them down – period! An argument ensued and moments later Dawn Smythers was dead from a gunshot to the head. The defense called it an accident but the jury did not buy it. Now he faces life behind bars – a terrible Christmas-related tragedy!
Some might feel the Sanner incident had little to do with Christmas itself. It was just a terrible and typical case of domestic violence, something all too common in modern American culture. But the reality is, it had everything to do with Christmas. Christmas is, among other things, very much about murder. This may sound odd, but it is theologically undeniable.
Those who fully understand Christmas know that the Child of Bethlehem would become the Christ of the cross. The highly moving Christmas song, “Cradle In The Shadow of A Cross,” is more than just a beautiful and inspiring tune. It is a deeply significant spiritual truth!
Jesus did not come to merely be the perfect role model of a perfect man – though He was. He came to deal with human sin – all sin, including murder! He came to deal with the one who tempted and tricked mankind into sin, judgement, and eternal death. (John 8:44) And He came to do God’s specific will as proclaimed in 1 John 3:8. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” For that purpose to be fulfilled would require an unfathomable act of sacrifice.
Jesus Christ took on human form according to John 1:14. The verse reads, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” That is what He did at His birth. What He did at His death is revealed in Philippians 2:8. “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
The beautiful and uplifting message of that first Christmas is fully intertwined with the deeper and darker message of the cross. Those who fail to see that all-important link may love the season of light, but live in the spiritual shadows. Christ came to bring God’s great light into man’s dark world. (John 1:9, 1 Peter 2:9) And all those who comprehend, and fully accept, this can sense great joy even while living in a sin-cursed world. The basic reason for such a miraculous ability is recorded through Paul's perceptive words in Romans 5:20-21. "But where sin abounded , grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Luke 2:11 offers up the primary purpose of the eternal God coming in human flesh. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (1 Timothy 4:10, 2 Timothy 1:10)
But this wonderful story of hope and deliverance in the Gospels must always be filtered through the 'darker' message taught in the Epistles. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) It is then, and only then, that the ‘deeper’ meaning of God's profound personal peace can be known. "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. " (Romans 3:24)
"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)