With all the craziness that usually surrounds the Christmas season in our world today — presents, family time, traveling — sacrifice is a heavy word to rest on. But that’s exactly what this season should be all about.
Although the whole “Jesus is the reason for the season” seems cliche now, the message behind it should drive everything we do. The weight of Jesus, who came to earth as a helpless baby and grew up to die on our cross for our sake, should drive everything we do. And not just each year around December.
So as Christians, if our ultimate aim in life is to be like Christ, what do we do when it comes to sacrifices?
But let’s not start with the Christmas story, but in the Old Testament:
In Exodus, the long process of the Israelites’ liberation from Egypt began with water being turned into blood (Exodus 7) and ended with the killing of all the firstborn children (Exodus 11-12).
All of these things were a way for God to get the attention of the Pharaoh of Egypt so he would let God’s people, the Israelites, go.
During the final plague, the Israelites were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and to sprinkle its blood on the doorposts of their homes so that God would pass over these families when the firstborn children were killed in the night.
Now, God knows who his people are. Why would he need blood to distinguish them?
Maybe the blood on the doorposts wasn’t for Him but for us.
If we understand the term sacrifice, we know that it is derived from the Latin word sacrificium, meaning an offering to a deity, a sacred rite.
A sacred rite.
It was the sacred rite of the Israelites to perform a sacrifice as God’s people. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that as Christians, we are all a chosen people and royal priesthood, and although our sacrifices look different now than the Israelites’ of Exodus, we are still greatly rewarded when we exercise this rite to Him.
You see, the story of the Passover wasn’t just a story to show God’s goodness to His people, but also to foreshadow the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and to teach us about sacrifice. It is because of Him that we don’t need to sacrifice anymore livestock. His sacrifice atoned for all our sins, set us free, and gave us life.
But what should we do in response to this precious gift?
Our sacrifices should never be self-serving, and they also don’t earn us salvation from our sins — that’s what Christ’s sacrifice was for. But learning how to sacrificially love also helps us grow and become more like Christ.
Through sacrifices, we show the love of Christ to those around us.
They can seem big or small. It may be that we give our last piece of bread to a stranger, or just a piece of gum to a friend. Missing a concert to comfort a friend or running errands to lessen the stress and burden on a family member.
It’s giving up our own comfort, time, or even our last dollar.
We sacrifice because we want to be like Christ, who demonstrated the ultimate sacrifice to us.
We sacrifice because we love. We love because it is the core of our faith, and it is who God is. By loving others, we show Christ in us.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:16-18
Saying a prayer for the hurt and the lost is a wonderful thing, but God wants us to take the extra step. It’s not enough to say you love someone — it should be loud and clear in everything you do. It has to be an action, and it has to be an everyday thing.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Luke 6:38
It means giving physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
For me, it means leaving the fortress that is my home — the place I feel safest, wrapped up in a cocoon of blankets by myself. To me, sacrificially loving is pushing past my comfort zone to meet the needs of those around me, even when I don’t think I want to.
Because that’s the thing about people, whether a believer or nonbeliever: we all need something. Food, gas, a shoulder to cry on, someone to listen and someone to point us to God.
And Jesus didn’t stay where He was, safe and comfortable at home with the Father.
Instead, He came to earth in a manger.
I wasn’t called to stay in my comfort zone either.
And neither were you.
It’s not very hard to find someone in need of some sacrificial love, all you have to do is take a look at the world around you.
So go out and love. You’ll be surprised how much it will change those around you and how much it will change your heart too.