Christmas is over, the New Year has arrived. Some of us are grateful for the pause after a season of almost manic activity. We’ve rushed from pillar to post involved in Christmas festivities that range from the classic concerts to Christmas plays at our children’s schools, family gatherings and church services. All that goes into preparing for those events on top of shopping for presents, cooking, and the mad dash to wrap everything. It takes me a bit of time to recover!
While Christmas is over, I found myself thinking today about the initial Christmas sacrifice many years ago.
The birth of Christ was and is the ultimate gift and we rejoice for this gift. This year, however, I thought of the birth of Jesus in a different light. I thought of the sacrifice that God Himself gave that day and all of the emotions that went with the offering. Imagine a father knowing that His Son would be ridiculed and rejected yet was willing to give the best He had?
When I buy a gift for someone I love, I try to imagine their reaction in getting that gift and if they don’t like it, the disappointment I feel over them not enjoying what I spent money and time to get for them. Have you seen this shoe commercial (it’s an older commercial) where the kids, a boy and a girl, are saying something to the effect that their mom can’t get anything cool for them. Just as they open the boxes they pull out the “cool” shoes Mom bought and they are shouting for joy over their gifts. Simultaneously, a big “VICTORY” sign appears over Mom and she says, “Who’s your mama now?”
Now, this is a poor parallel but maybe you can somehow understand the analogy I’m trying to present here.
God knowingly sent His Son to a place of rejection by those who he sent the gift to; He was put to death to pay for the wrongdoings of those who rejected Him. And yet, not a note of regret is mentioned in scripture for the offering of this gift that was to be rejected by those who would be saved by it. God is never seen saying, “Oh, I wish I had never sent Jesus!”
What about the emotions of Jesus as He came? The Bible has little to say about Jesus’ emotions over His experience. There are mentions of Him weeping in a couple of verses, His statement at Gethsemane about “if it is possible to take this cup – but nevertheless Your will be done…” but most of what we see is courage in the face of adversity.
How did He manage to navigate through and keep His attention on His main goal? If we could tap into this understanding, this ability to look past our own feelings, it might be that we would actually go farther than we imagined for the Lord – for it is usually our own doing when we fail to realize the goals that God has set before us. Our emotions, opinions, and will silence God’s voice in the middle of the road and we find ourselves lost.
How did Jesus manage to live as He did, knowing what He knew about His death and resurrection? Hebrews 12:2 gives us a small glimpse: “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…”
I’ve heard it said that at the end of every storm there is sunshine, just like there is a morning after the night. On the other side of the sacrifice, Jesus understood that there was a great reward, great joy, waiting for Him. His reward, His joy is found in you and it is found in me.
It may be that some would say that Jesus was, after all, God incarnate and He had the power available to Him to endure. But we are simple human beings and such endurance is not possible. No, it is not possible alone, but we aren’t alone in this. There are many great human examples of endurance in the middle of sacrifice in the Bible that we could draw from besides the greatest One (Jesus): Daniel, Rahab, Moses, Esther, Deborah, Amos, Paul, Peter, the list is quite long. What did they all have in common? They were all flawed human beings: Rahab was a prostitute but God used her, Paul killed Christians but became an amazing apostle to the Gentiles. Every one of them struggled as they lived on this earth.
We are in great company, then, as we journey in faith to our destination that is now under construction:
Hebrews 11:9,10 NKJ “By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
Being a missionary overseas, I somehow understand the nomadic mindset that Abraham had as he wandered toward the land God had promised. We move from place to place and do our best to set up a home at every destination, but we know that at His command, we will pull up our tent stakes and move on to the next assignment.
Most of us aren’t as “mobile” as Abraham was; we don’t move around from place to place and live in portable tents. Home is home and we tend to live as if this earthly home is all that there is to life, working to build a life that won’t accompany us to the grave. While God may not be asking us to live as nomads, He does expect us to keep the City in view.
When Abraham finally did arrive at the land God had promised, we are told that he understood that the land was only a temporary home for him – his home was in a City somewhere in his future Whose Builder Himself had laid every stone.
In tomorrow’s blog I’ll further discuss Abraham’s journey in obedience – I hope you’ll join us.
How is your fast going? We’re now into day 2 and looking forward to day 3 – the stomachs are grumbling by now (I know mine is) but I’m so enjoying the process. Feel free to give your feedback (what a word to use during a fast!!) in the comment section.