Advent. It’s the time of year when the church celebrates our Lord’s birth and a time when we spiritually prepare for His second coming.
I’m taking a break from Genesis to focus on this season. But I hope to make a weekly posting, inviting you to join me as I ponder the significance of Advent.
The birth of a baby is often a time of joy. An expanded family. Hope fulfilled. A fresh, new opportunity. Love expressed. The miracle of new life given into a weary, weary world. The Christmas story is all of this.
But Jesus’ birth means so much more than a nativity scene with a cute little baby sleeping in a manger under the adoring gaze of Mary, Joseph and shepherds.
Perhaps there is another, often overlooked component that should be pondered. The sacrifice. A sacrifice that began long before the cross was ever considered.
Colossians 1:15-29 says it all. Jesus created this world and everything in it. He even created time. Yet Jesus, who never lived within a boundary of time, stepped into His creation and became subject to a beginning. He became the “image of the invisible God.” He had a birth and He would have a death – both displaying His sacrificial love for us.
Jesus would submit Himself to other time constraints. He would need time to sleep. For the first time ever, His eyes would close. He would need time to grow into a man and He would need time to accomplish His mission. The Lord of all would sacrificially submit to His creation of time.
Jesus had also never experienced the boundary of space. His permanent residence extends beyond any confines. His existence is in total freedom. Jesus did the unimaginable when He willingly subjected Himself to the constraints of His own created boundaries. He left freedom and stepped into the tight confines of a woman’s womb. And He would live with limitations for the rest of his life on this earth. What a sacrifice!
Jesus, who had existed without any needs, became a man with many needs … needs for food and drink, needs for rest, needs for guidance from His Father, needs for strength. Can you grasp what it would be like to go from never having a need to living in a perpetual state of needs? Again, what a sacrifice!
When I think beyond physical needs and ponder my spiritual “needs,” my list includes denying selfish temptations – the temptation to idolize the worthless, the temptation to compromise and take the easier route, the temptation to put myself first, the temptation to … there are so many! When Jesus stepped into this world as a man, He went through the same trials we experience. And we cannot fool ourselves and think that because He is God, it was easy to say no. He was also fully man and suffered through temptation. The only difference is He was totally obedient to His Father and decided to say “no” to every ungodly temptation.
Before being born, Jesus did not need to choose between good and evil. He is absolute in His character of goodness. Yet He agreed to step into a world filled with these kind of choices. And in that process of always choosing what is right and good, He revealed how we too can overcome … through quiet times with God, through prayer, through commitment, love and obedience to the Father.
And Jesus, who was rich, became poor. He who owns “the cattle on a thousand hills”, stepped into a life of poverty. He was born into the poorest of conditions. His first “home” was a stinking stable because no one would make room for Him. And He would live His ministry without a place to lay His head. Sacrificial love for us, for the joy set before Him.
And just as He experienced a beginning, Jesus would experience an earthly end. He would experience death but He would conquer this final foe. Jesus lives. And He has revealed that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God that is found in Him.
Sacrifice at the cross! Yes, without a doubt.
Sacrifice at His conception! Oh, yes.
Joy, unspeakable joy, born in a manger. For you and for me.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 14a)