"The Prophecies of Christmas: Sacrifice"

Everybody’s got to stop falling down.

Carol Beall keeps falling, and that’s why she ended up having neck surgery last week (which she came out of just fine -- she’s now going through physical rehab at Proctor Hospital).  Visiting her, I found out that her mother, Marge Beall, has also been falling down (she’s doing okay, but she’s feeling a bit banged up).  Then in the middle of the week, my Uncle Bill fell down and had to go to the ER overnight (he’s doing okay as well, but he looks beat up enough that it’s like he got into a fight with my Dad, who had surgery on his face this week -- it’s basically “Rocky XXIV”).  And yesterday, I heard that Kim Wainwright has been having a problem with falling recently as well (though she’s doing okay, too -- the Wainwrights were even able to visit their kids down in Arkansas this week).

Basically, I find myself wanting to wrap everyone I love in bubble-wrap to protect them.  Or get them better canes.  Or walkers.  Or just plop them into a preventative body cast before they hurt themselves. 

But that’s not the way that life works.  It’s messy all of the time, and people get hurt, no matter how hard you work to keep them safe and happy.  That’s not a reason to live with wild and reckless abandon, but it does point to an interesting aspect of our lives -- that people naturally try to protect themselves from all pain and difficulty, as if that were possible.  Like Emily Dickinson, we retreat from the world instead of advancing into it like ambassadors of a better Kingdom -- primarily because we’re often trying to wrap ourselves in emotional, relational, and spiritual bubble-wrap and pretend that life can be healthily lived like that.

In our final, “bonus” Advent message, we looked at sacrifice in the Old Testament, and how it prepared God’s people for what Christ came to do.

On the hills of Zion (a region originally called “Moriah”), Abraham said, “Here I am” to God, fully willing to sacrifice his one and only son, whom he loved.  But, as Abraham had promised Isaac, God provided a ram for him to sacrifice instead -- since God would never demand that His people should sacrifice their children.

On the hills of Zion (for centuries thereafter), priests like Samuel said, “Here I am” to God, sacrificing animal after animal, year after year, for thank offerings, peace offerings, and sin offerings -- not to take away sins, but to cover them up with blood.  They knew full well that the day after a sacrifice was made, people’s sins were still hanging on them like condemnations.

On the hills of Zion (and one in particular called “Golgotha”), Jesus said, “Here I am” to God, willing to do His Father’s will -- a Father who was willing to sacrifice his one and only son, whom he loved.  God Himself provided the Lamb, and Jesus served as both Abraham and Isaac, both priest and sacrifice, paying one last sacrifice, once for all time, so that the day... the year... the century... the eon after the sacrifice... there was now no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

When God calls out to you, do you say, “Here I am” in reply, or do you retreat back and away from any possible pain or difficulty?  In your Christian life, do you most resemble a fragile poet kept in the same safe-feeling rooms forever, or ambassadors who project themselves into foreign lands to promote the Kingdom that they love?

When faced with a situation of sacrifice, do you stutter-step, or do you praise God for the opportunity?

In 2019, let’s try saying, “Here I am!” just a smidgey bit more, and shrinking back just a little bit less...