As we approach Christmas, it is the season that church has, historically, called Advent. I thought I would re-share some old thoughts about Christmas in this time. Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal (which the Apostle Paul would not have used, since he didn’t speak English), but it was the hymnal I had when I wrote this. Apart from Scripture quotes, the copyright on this completely mine.
“I will not take what is yours for the LORD or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (King David) 1 Chronicles 21:24
It is easy for us to picture Christmas in light of the Hallelujah Chorus and sing “Wonderful! Counselor! The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace!” This is certainly the celebration of the overall character of Jesus of Nazareth, whose birth in Bethlehem anchors our celebrations. Yet Christians recognize not one Advent but two. The second is the one yet to come: when He returns and initiates the visible Kingdom of God in all things. The first Advent leads us to Bethlehem and the manger.
In the gap between the two Advents, something else had to happen. We return to the Old Testament for the picture of the system of sacrifices and offerings. Soon after Adam and Eve eat the fruit they should have left alone, we see Cain and Abel offering sacrifices. They take some of their labor and present it to God in both apology and gratitude.
The system develops, and then in Leviticus and the rest of the Law, God puts clear direction on sacrifices. There are clear examples and prescribed choices to be used as sacrifices. One key requirement was that any animal used as a sacrifice had to be as near to perfect as could be found. Diseased, lame, injured animals were not acceptable: God expected the best from His people.
A problem is evident, though, when you consider this. The best sacrifices are never quite good enough. The most sacrificing does for a lamb, ram, or turtle dove is hasten its death. It was going to die eventually. That blemish has been present ever since death entered this world at the hands of Adam and Eve. All living things die.
There was only one exception to that rule. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, He came without death within Him. He came in perfection to the imperfect world. He was spotless: His death was not guaranteed in the natural course of events.
Beyond this, His life never required His death for His own sin. He committed none in the years of earthly life. He was, and is, truly without spot and without blemish. He is the only One capable of being the sacrifice for sin.
Scripture passage for the day: 1 Peter 1:18–19 (HCSB)
“For you know that you were redeemed
from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers,
not with perishable things like silver or gold,
but with the precious blood of Christ,
like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.”
Hymn for the day: Blessed Redeemer #258
Prayer: Your holiness, O God, is more than I can bear. My spots and blemishes show up clearly in Your light. Thank You, Lord God, for Jesus who redeems me. In His name I pray, Amen.