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Sacrifice in the Christmas Season
Witnessing Tools
Thursday, December 04, 2014
J.L. Robb

Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter are the only holidays in the USA where one can occasionally hear the words Jesus and Christ; but not often. The rest of the year, not so much.

Jesus gets little mention in Christmas advertising, whether print or media, in the United States. His sacrifice for us is the reason for both Christmas and Easter, but we seem to hear a lot more about Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.

It seems to me that it is difficult if not impossible to understand what Jesus did for us if one knows nothing about the concept of sacrifice.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16 NIV

God’s plans for the world, according to the Bible which is the earliest textbook about the God of Adam and Eve to Abraham to all the rest of us, drastically changed with the introduction of rule-breaking (sin) early in man’s history, back in the Garden between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers.

In the Garden of Eden story there were no sacrifice requirements, because there was no sin for which to sacrifice.

Sacrifice: The act of giving up something highly valued for the sake of something else considered to have a greater value or claim.

Imagine God’s disappointment, if not disgust, at Adam and Eve for not keeping the one, single rule given to them: Don’t eat fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Until that happened, there was no knowledge of anything except goodness.

Think about that: The temperature was perfect, climate was great, food was in abundance and animals didn’t attack and eat anyone. There was no death, no sickness, no sadness, pain or mourning. It was perfect.

However, in what seems like an ongoing contest between Satan and God since the beginning (think Book of Job), Satan’s influence won that contest. Eve ate the fruit; Adam ate the fruit when Eve offered it to him; Satan was happy; God was not. We, mankind, have been paying the price. Sacrifice for wrongdoing, to make atonement with God for our inability to follow His desires, has been happening since. Some scholars believe the first sacrifice was God’s sacrifice for mankind when He killed animals to provide skins to clothe His two betrayers and heartbreakers before sending them out of the Garden and into the unknown. The weather would be different outside the Garden.

As man went from sinless to sinner, sacrifice of man’s most prized possession as a guilt offering became quite contentious. It led to the world’s first murder at a time when no one had ever died. How surprised do you think Cain might have been when Abel didn’t get up from the ground? God’s pleasure with Abel’s sacrifice and displeasure with Cain’s, provided a perfect storm of jealous rage, culminating in the first homicide.

In Leviticus where God laid out all the sacrificial customs for the Israelites, He gave them many options based on their ability. If one had an unblemished lamb to sacrifice, that was great; but a bird would work if that was the best you could do. If one had no livestock, then grain offerings would work. Each according to his ability.

God was no fool though. If a shepherd had 100 sheep, at sacrifice time don’t be trying to provide anything but the best. The key word was unblemished. Whatever was sacrificed had to be as close to perfection as possible.

Think about that today. Say you’re an exotic car collector and have 30 cars in meticulous condition, ranging in value from $ 80,000 to $ 3,000,000; but you have no livestock or grain.

You decide to offer up one of your prize-possessions for God, a sacrifice; only you sacrifice the $ 80,000 car instead of the $ 3,000,000 car. You could afford to offer the most expensive but do not. God gets the bottom of the heap.

This logic prevailed but was not pleasing to God. He wanted the crème de la crème, not the bottom of the barrel. He wanted the sacrifice to be a little difficult and noteworthy, not simple and easy. The sacrifice was for sin after all.

Jesus, presumed laidback and liberal by so many who have not read the story, made the point of a sacrifice when He threw all the moneychangers and purveyors out of the Jewish Temple, calling it a den of thieves. Why? Because the greed part of man’s mentality took over and made sacrificing easy.

“Step right up,” shouts the purveyor. “I have an unblemished bird just for you. It’s easy; just come buy it here on the Temple steps and give to God.” Sacrificing made simple.

Finally, God got to the point with His human creation that He wanted to destroy it and start over, or maybe not; just like in the days of Noah. Instead, He decided to offer up a sacrifice for us, a Sacrifice to end all sacrifices. He gave us His unblemished and only Son. The sacrifice of Jesus would be atonement for any who wanted it. All one had to do was believe that Jesus was who He said He was… the Son of God and the Messiah.

In the end of Jesus’ three-year ministry, Jesus seemed to have some second thoughts about what was coming His way. He kept telling His Apostles that He was going to be killed, but the message went right over their heads. Jesus prayed that what was coming, might not. He was well aware of the torture that would be involved, because it had all been predicted 500-600 years earlier by Daniel and other prophets.

“After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.” ~ Daniel 9:26 NIV

Jesus was the Anointed One spoken of by Daniel, and Daniel called His death to the date. It takes a little study to figure out the timing of things to come as stated in Daniel, so I won’t get into it here.

The point is this:

We celebrate Christmas, not because of the pagan customs that made it into the celebration as many like to point out but because of the ultimate Sacrifice that God made for us, His unblemished and perfect Son.

This sacrifice, foretold by the Jewish prophets, is the Reason for the Season. It is not about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, sleigh bells (and cash registers) ringing or decking the hall. It is about the birth of God’s only Son, ever. He gave Him to us so we could have a chance of another life after this one that will be better than we can imagine.

Merry Christmas, and thank you Jesus. None of us would have done what you did.

About J.L. Robb

Last week: Thanksgiving and What It Means to Me

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