Advent Reflections: Priest Above All Religion
A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year.
Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NIV)
The first place our minds go when we hear that Jesus is a “priest” is down the road to religion. Left to that path, we are headed to an unmitigated disaster if we do not put some hedges and explanations on that. The truth carries a much tighter focus than many of us like.
Most religions build on a structure of priesthood. The structure is this: there is something beyond what normal people understand, but there are a few that grasp the full truth. Those few then serve as intermediaries between ordinary folks and that something. You get this in Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Mormonism. You get it even in Buddhism and Atheism—yes, atheists have priests and prophets, too, who are out to “enlighten” everyone about the real truth that religious people ignore.
Even some forms of Christianity twist His truth and place additional layers between man and God. This pattern is so pervasive to religious belief that I think it is just an extension of human nature. We like to see what we worship, and if we cannot see it, we want a representative. So, the search continues throughout cultures, history, and time.
Except that people are troublesome. Too often, the people we look to as our examples and intermediaries resemble us more than they resemble the truth. This is our problem: those we would pick make poor examples and those who offer themselves are rarely any better.
Yet into this world, Jesus is born. He is born into a pluralistic society with a plethora of gods and goddesses. Wait, you thought He was born in Israel, land of the One True God, right? Except Israel is not independent, they are ruled by the Roman Empire. Rome was one of the first generally secular empires in world history. Rome had few gods of their own, but instead just adopted the gods of wherever they conquered. You could worship nearly anything or anybody you wanted in Rome as long as you paid your taxes and did not rebel against the government.
Jesus is born into a religiously diverse world. True, Islam does not exist at that point: Mohammed is born nearly 600 years later. When He came, He faced that diversity. Christmas did not happen in the world of the Jews. It happened in the world of fallen humanity.
This same Jesus offered the quote above. That He is the only way to God. Not through rabbis or pastors, priests or imams, scientists or séances, but only through Jesus. Your religion, in the grand scheme of eternity, actually does not matter.
What matters is your response to Jesus. Do you recognize Him as The High Priest, the One Way to God or do you reject Him? To live out that serving and knowing God is Jesus and your religion calls Him a liar. To live out that serving a religion that ignores Him altogether is to marginalize Him.
To marginalize and insult Him is to the same to God. He came to show us God, to give us the representation that we need, to provide the guidance back. Even in the days when the path is dark, following Him closely will provide the steps we need. If we place any other person between us and Him, we may mistake the way.
Scripture passage for the Day: Psalm 31:24
So be strong and courageous,
all you who put your hope in the Lord!
Hymn for the Day: He is Born #190
Prayer: God, You alone are God. And only through Jesus can we come to You. I ask for help to strip away the forms and formalities that I have placed between myself and Him. Help me to see clearly the One who You sent, that I may clearly serve You and worship. Thank You, Jesus, for coming. In Your name I pray, Amen.
 Not to deny the importance of Israel in the plan of God. There’s just more to the story.