not “What?” but “Why?”

Why is Christmas a celebration?

During Christmas, it is hard enough for people to stay focused on what is being celebrated let alone why they are celebrating. Luckily there are little reminders of what Christmas is about –

Nativity scenes. Pins and magnets calling Jesus the “Reason for the Season.”  Linus’s famous speech to Charlie Brown.

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However, this Christmas I want to look even further than that and not just ask what are we celebrating but why. Why did Jesus have to be born at all?

Here is a brief history explaining why I celebrate Christmas…

God created man to be in fellowship with him. Adam and Eve lived in perfection in the garden of Eden and freely walked with God.

garden-of-eden

Man sinned.

Adam and Eve did the one thing God commanded them not to.

One. That was it. They had one rule to follow, like fight club, and they broke it.  This introduced sin into a perfect world and eternally put a divide between God and man but I’ll get back to that.

First, what is sin?  ἁμαρτάνω (hamartanó): missing the mark.  The mark is God’s standard.  The standard is perfect obedience.

Man is sinful by nature and no matter how hard we try, we all end up missing this mark of perfect obedience.

I remember the first time I witnessed the inherent sinful nature of man. I was at my brother’s house and my two year old nephew lied to my face to try and avoid getting in trouble for something he had done. Nobody had taught him that. It is simply human nature to lie, cheat and steel to preserve our well being and there is nothing we can do to change it.

We are effectively screwed.  (That’s a Merry Christmas message isn’t it?)   Luckily for us that’s not the end of history. That was only the beginning.

Yes, God’s standard is perfection. Always has been, always will be.  But if you remember, God created man to commune with them, so he established a system that would atone for sin as well.

He gave detailed instructions, a whole book of detailed instructions found in Leviticus, of how the Jewish people could makes themseles right in his eyes by bringing gifts and sacrifices to him for everything imaginable.

Sins against a family member.

Sins against a friend.

Sins against an enemy.

Sins against yourself

Sins committed on purpose.

Sins committed on accident.

Lots of grain, fruit, doves, lambs and other things were brought before God so he would forgive people’s sins.

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Yom Kippur was established – the Day of Atonement.

This one is so important to Jews that it is still listed on calendars today.  Once a year, and only once a year, the High Priest of Israel would enter into the Most Holy Place where the ark of the covenant was, where the literal presence of God dwelt, and would offer the sacrifice of a perfect lamb without defect or blemish. This would have been the blue ribbon winning lamb at the national fair competition if there was such thing. By this one sacrifice the sins of the people of Israel were forgiven for that year and only that year. Then the same festival, ceremony and sacrifice was repeated the following year. (Click here for an interesting Christmas perspective about the shepherds and The Lamb).

If this sacrificial system was working, then why didn’t we just keep going with this – other than the fact that we may end up with a shortage of lambs and who doesn’t like a good lamb stew or curry?

Because it wasn’t really working.

Yes, God established this system so man could still commune with him, but forgiveness isn’t perfection.

Hebrews 10 sums it up perfectly

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves.  For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.  If it could, would they not have stopped being offered?  – Hebrews 10:1-2a

If the system was working, the sacrifices would have stopped being offered.

The system was like a patch covering a hole in a torn piece of fabric. It covers up the hole, but the hole is still there.  The fabric hasn’t been made new.  Eventually the patch rips out and has to be replaced by a new patch

Therefore when Christ came into the world, he said:  “Sacrifices and offerings you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;”  Hebrews 10:5

Jesus had to come to earth to make us perfect before God because the sacrificial system in place was not good enough.  (I wrote a blog last year that was talking about this sacrifice).

Day after day every priests stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices which can never take away sin.  – Hebrews 10:11

These priests were never finished, their work continued so they stood and continued.

But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.  – Hebrews 10:12

Jesus sat. His work was done

because by one sacrifice he made perfect forever those who are being made holy.  – Hebrews 10:14

We no longer have come to God with our offerings and sacrifices because for one, he wasn’t pleased with them, even though the law requires them to be made (Hebrews 10:8).  But more importantly, because Jesus in his perfection entered our world, coming as a baby, to experience all the pain suffering and temptations of every other human on earth so that when he died on the cross to make atonement for our sins, once for all, he had lived and experienced life and was still perfect

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was with out sin.” Hebrews 4:15

Jesus had to be born so he could live like the rest of us, so when he died, he died still perfect without sin – without ever having missed the mark.  Jesus lived to be both sacrifice and priest.  The shedding of his blood which he brought before God, was and is enough. The blood of Jesus who was born, lived and died perfect meets God’s standard of perfection and just as the blood of the lamb covered the Jews for a year, the blood of the Son covers us for eternity.

So why do I celebrate Christmas?

I celebrate Christmas because if Jesus hadn’t been born, he wouldn’t have lived. If he hadn’t lived, he wouldn’t have died.  If he hadn’t died, then his perfect blood would not cover me and forgive every sin I have ever and will ever commit. I celebrate Christmas because I celebrate the birth of a life lived in perfection that allows me to stand perfect in the presence of God.

 

Merry Christmas

 

nativity

 

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Tradition of Sacrifice

I started this blog on Christmas but it has taken me a month to actually finish and post it – please forgive, azafady.


 

Growing up we didn’t have too many Christmas traditions.  We put up a tree but nothing else really sticks out as being the same year to year.  The food sometimes changed.  The environment changed.  The number of people home changed.  Celebrations even moved back and forth between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day depending on who was working.  I enjoy Christmas but for me it was never a stand out holiday.  I’ve always preferred Thanksgiving or 4th of July and the festivities surrounding those days.

This year however, Christmas struck me in a unique way and I think I inadvertently started a Christmas tradition.  I have been reading through the Bible chronologically for the last year and a half.  This means when it comes to the Gospels, reading the events in each one as they take place.  The week of Christmas I was reading the events surrounding Easter – Palm Sunday, Good Friday and the Resurrection – four accounts of these same events.

For some reason, reading about Jesus fulfilling his work here on earth through his death and resurrection gave even more meaning to his birth celebrated at Christmas.  I have always read these passages around Easter but never at this time of year.  In reality though, we cannot celebrate one without the other.  Obviously, if Jesus hadn’t come to Earth there would be no Easter but without his purpose of redemption through resurrection there would have been no reason for his birth at Christmas either.

However, this year I have seen that his birth was so much more than just coming to Earth, there was incredible sacrifice involved.  I usually only focus on Jesus’s sacrifice at Easter and am too busy celebrating the joy that his birth ushered in to think about what he had to give up to be born.  However, let us not lose sight that in order for Christ to come to this Earth had had to take on a human body and all the pain and suffering that accompanies that – physically and emotionally.

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The Word  became flesh.  

I don’t think Jesus had a human form before his birth in Bethlehem and seeing how he maintained that human form after the resurrection there was no going back for him.  It is a bit of a stretch, but I cannot help but think of the scene in Field of Dreams when young Archie Graham steps off the field to save a choking Karin turning into Doc “Moonlight” Graham never to play baseball again.

moonlight graham2

Christ sacrificed his life to redeem us, me, at Easter but he sacrificed his very being at Christmas.  He entered into a fallen, broken world with the purpose of saving a people who rejected and killed him never to return to his previous state.  Yes, Jesus is complete in glory but will we ever know the nature in which Christ lived before coming to Earth?

Christmas has now come and gone but in years to come, let us not forget the sacrifice involved in the birth of Christ.  Let us not sing the songs of his triumphal entry and overlook that he gave up everything to come and save us and that is why he came after all.

 

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