WONDERFUL THINGS; A Christmas Eve mystery
I love to read mysteries. I’m not sure exactly why it is. But there is something about following the clues as the story unfolds, trying to figure out the identity of “who done it,” that I really enjoy. This Christmas Eve I want to present you with a mystery. It’s not a murder mystery but more of a “just who is this mysterious person.” Together we will follow the clues and see if we can discern just who this unknown figure is.
The story begins more than 2,000 years ago in a tiny village in Israel called Bethlehem. A young couple arrived in town for the census that was taking place. The young wife was obviously pregnant when they arrived, and she has since given birth to a baby boy. Rumors have begun to swirl that her child is someone of great significance. It seems unlikely. But you are curious and you begin to gather clues.
Your first clue — you find out that He was born in a stable (though it may have been a cave or a courtyard). But you know that it is an area where domesticated animals were kept.
Your second clue — you hear that after his birth he was put in a manger. Strange. A manger is a feeding trough for animals, not a bed for an infant.
Your third clue — you are told that after his birth a group of shepherds from the surrounding hillsides were his first visitors.
Your fourth clue — you know that these shepherds tended special sheep. The flock that was kept outside of Bethlehem were used for the daily sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem and for the Passover lambs that were sold in the temple precincts.
You scratch your head and think, “Stable, manger, shepherds, Passover lambs. Who is this?” And then it comes ... could it be that this baby boy is himself a lamb? Is this child the lamb of God? Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph came to be a lamb! Mystery solved. But just what does it mean that Jesus came as a lamb?
The lamb is one of the key themes of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. In Genesis, Abraham tells his son Isaac that God will provide the lamb when they go together to the top of Mt. Moriah. It was the lamb who was sacrificed in the Passover in Egypt so that the firstborn of each household might not die. It was a lamb that was sacrificed each morning and evening in the temple for the sins of God’s people.
In the last book of the Bible we are told that before God’s throne stands the lamb who was slain: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
The late Adrian Rogers once wrote, “Of all of Earth's creatures, the most gentle, meek, and defenseless is a lamb. It has no fangs, no claws, it cannot fight, and it can frighten nothing. A lamb seems to say, ‘Are you hungry? Eat me. Are you cold? Shear me.’ A lamb seems to present itself to the slaughter.”
When John the Baptist first saw Jesus he cried out , “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” God became a man to be a lamb to be sacrificed for sin. He came to give himself for the sins of His people — to bear God’s anger against our sins.
You know a lot of people don’t like that. They don’t like that God is truly angry — even wrathful — because of our sin. They say “My God is a god of love — not all this anger. I don’t believe in a God that had to pour his wrath for my sin on His own Son.”
With all due respect, a God of wrath is necessarily a God of greater love than a generic god of love. Without God’s anger we don’t need a lamb, we don’t need a sacrifice, we don’t need the cross. We don’t need a Savior. The greatest act of love in the history of the universe is no longer needed. Jesus, the wrath bearing lamb is not needed — if God is just a generic god of love who is not angry at anyone.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rm. 5:8) That love will change you. That love will captivate you, compel you, draw you. I pray this Christmas Eve we would all know the Lamb and His love.
James Calderazzo is pastor of Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Destin. He can be reached at email@example.com.