I love the advent season. I look forward every year to the 25 days in December that I get to focus on the story of Jesus’ birth. From the beginning it’s a story of magnificent promise. The people of Israel were promised a savior, someone who would come and save them from the tumultuous world they lived in. Israel has always been right in the center of a hot bed of conflict. I love reading the words of the prophets that God used as vessels to proclaim that a Savior was coming; that the promises God made to Abraham and to Jacob were not forgotten.
In Isaiah 9:6 it is foretold “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 7:14 gives us a prophecy that says “The Virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel”.
Micah 5:2 identifies that He would come out of Bethlehem: “But you Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
There are promises, predictions, prophecies, too many to count, that foretell the death of Jesus, down to the smallest detail like identifying what kind of animal He would ride in to Jerusalem that Passover weekend. Because I’m in a place spiritually of hanging on to every word of God, and trusting that the things He has promised me are true, trusting that He is good, and that His plans are good, reading about these prophecies that were spoken thousands of years ago gives me so much comfort. As the days lead up to Christmas and once again I consider the story of the birth of Jesus, the promised sacrifice and savior, I am filled with hope and gratitude at how much God gives.
For me advent is always full of celebration and a little magical. It’s the nice part of the story. Easter is when we remember the death, and celebrate the resurrection. Easter is the heavy time. Easter always feels somber to me but I love it because I think we have a tendency to forget the weight of the sacrifice and what our lives cost. Christmas is celebratory. It is our celebration of Christ entering the world, of the commencement of God’s promises being fulfilled. The celebration of the long awaited savior, the one who would unite the world and deliver Israel from brokenness.
This year I’m seeing Christmas a little differently. This year I see Christmas as the beginning of the sacrifice. I keep thinking about how an innocent, pure being entered the world with the purpose of being slaughtered to make amends for the gaping hole that men had created between themselves and the Holiness that is God. That this baby would grow into a man who only exuded love, yet that man would be hated and rejected, marred, taunted, and then He would beg for forgiveness for His persecutors. I keep thinking about how God sent this love into the world to heal and comfort our writhing, never satisfied hearts. That He made someone beautiful carry ugliness that He did not deserve, in order to complete His plan to save His people. Not even God was spared grief in the story of salvation.
The She Reads Truth Advent plan for me has given me a look into the hearts of men from the beginning of time, taking me back to Genesis and reading the stories of Cain and Abel, and Joseph. The hearts of men, of people, have been the same since the beginning of time. Deceptive, manipulative, jealous; looking out for number 1. Surviving. These ancient biblical families betrayed each other out of self seeking, anger, and envy.
One advent devotional went back to Isaac and how God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, the son he had waited for and prayed for for many years. When I read stories in the Bible, I visualize everything and try to really put myself in the emotional shoes of the subject of the story. In reading the story of Abraham, I was thinking about the 3 days that Abraham spent walking up the mountain to the place that he would have to pour out his own son’s blood out of obedience to the God that he feared. I can’t imagine the emotional turmoil. I can’t imagine walking up a mountain with the belief that God is right in asking me to sacrifice something that I considered so precious, something that was a blessing, something that I saw was good. I can’t imagine walking for days having the last moments with the person I loved more than anything, knowing these were my last moments on this earth with them. I can’t imagine the anticipation of mustering up the kind of strength I would need when I got to the top of that mountain, all the while just praying and aching inside, begging God to provide a way out but vowing to do whatever He asks. Can you imagine if God asked you to make that kind of sacrifice? You know Isaac knew something was up because at one point he’s like, uhhh dad, we have all of this wood and these supplies to build an alter, but no sacrifice? How God, could you even have let Him have to go that far? To the point where Abraham’s knife is in hand, his son inches away from death. The ultimate act of sacrifice. And I have trouble giving 10% of my income……
You can’t read this story without being struck with the similarity and the foreshadowing, that God would one day sacrifice His son out of love for His people. Abraham didn’t actually have to go through with it, while God did go through with it.
As I was reading this story going through the usual emotions and questions, I got to the part where God stops Abraham, and from that point blesses Him for generations to come and promises greatness because of Abraham’s reverent fear of the Lord and the sacrifice that he was willing to make. Abraham didn’t have to take the life of his son, he just had to trust God and “stay the course” of what God had told him to do. I am betting that Abraham was so acquainted with God, that God’s character was so well known to Abraham, that that knowledge gave him the faith to understand that if God told him to do this thing, no matter how hard it was, it would amount to good. The fact that this faith of Abraham was before Jesus just blows my mind. This was before Abraham could’ve come close to understanding (through Christ) the full extent of God’s mercy and pursuit of His people. I can’t find any evidence to explain to me how Abraham had faith like that. Maybe it was the fact that He had Isaac in the first place. That the only reason Abraham had Isaac was because in his old age, with a barren wife, God gave Abraham a miracle that brought him joy; then God asked Abraham to give it back. I am learning that every earthly possession, or position, or relationship is to be held onto loosely. Sometimes He will ask for those things back.
I am learning through this story, and through this year of my life, that we do not have a God who asks us to make sacrifices for the sake of sacrifice. We do not have a God who wastes our pain. We have a God of more. He is always giving more. When He asks us to give something entirely over to Him, He always multiples what we “gave up”. Jesus served as a sacrifice, of something that had to die but look what God gave back in return; a love that ties together all things. Through the sacrifice of Christ, God balanced the scales of the world. Through the sacrifice of Christ, He taught us to love in ways that are completely unnatural to us. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, He taught us that humility produces honor. Through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, He bound up and healed every wound that we had, or would have.
This year God pushed me to this place where I felt like I had to sacrifice a lot of my self. He is opening my eyes now to make me understand that the pain of the sacrifice that I felt I was making was real, but that sacrifice gave birth to so much more. I am a different person than I was a year ago and it’s because God asked me to let go of everything; just open my hands and relinquish control. He asked me to cease striving, and lay down what I wanted to just trust that if I lay down what I want, what He has is better. I don’t know what the end result is. I don’t know what He has at the end of the road. I do know that my heart is completely different. I do know that Jesus ties all things together. I do know that when God breaks down, it is with a promise that whatever He rebuilds will be greater than what was there before. I know that He gives peace beyond understanding. I know that He will carry me through any trial when I lift up my voice in need. I know that I was never, and will never be, abandoned or alone. I know that when my life looks like a pile of ashes, an unfix-able thing, there is no thing that He can’t fix. I know that there will never be a situation that I face in my life that I feel like I have no hope. I know that God can restore and rebuild anything/anyone. I now know that when God asks us to give something up, He gives so much more in return. It doesn’t mean the giving up isn’t painful, but we can give up knowing that we, and maybe dozens of other people, will receive because of it.
In the Pursuit of God, A.W Tozer wrote, “We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety. This is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.”
I know that from this year forward everything I have is committed to Him because He gave to me first. In this advent season, I am going to be rejoicing over the sacrifice(s), and celebrating the fruit that will come from them as I am celebrating the fruit that came from the sacrifice of Christ. We can celebrate the fact that God is God who works in abundance and purpose. Merry Christmas.
No sacrifice we make, no matter how dear, will ever trump the sacrifice made on the cross by our Savior. Our response to this great love is to simply give ourselves, to offer up our lives as a living and holy sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). We will come to this crossroads of trust over and over, but in the midst of the unknown—the unanswered questions, the bewildering circumstances—we can safely surrender and rest in God’s great love.” – She Reads Truth, Advent Devotional