For Unto us is Born this Day in the City of David
But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity. Micah 5:2
The Christmas frenzy has come and gone and our Advent reflection has drawn to a close.
This past Sunday across the world, Christians of all denominations remembered Mary and Joseph’s journey to the tiny city of Bethlehem.
It was in that village, within walking distance of the City of Peace, that our Prince of Peace was born.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
By the time Joseph led a tired and very pregnant Mary into their ancestral home, any trade significance Bethlehem had had as a city had faded—though it was still important. God Himself placed importance on the small village as evidenced through Micah 5:2.
The Sacrificial Lamb
It was Bethlehem where sacrificial lambs—the Paschal lambs for Passover and the Tamid lambs for the twice-daily sin sacrifice—were raised. You could say these lambs were slain before they were born, their destiny was sacrifice.
These shepherds, who were caring for the lambs, were the first to be told when the Lamb of God was born.
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:8-14
Why would it be a sign to them specifically? These shepherds had watched hundreds and thousands of sheep being led to the slaughter year after year—they intimately understood the meaning of Hebrews 10:1-4.
For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
The Jewish historian, Josephus related that 256,500 lambs were killed in the Temple for Passover in one year (between 66-70 CE). And that was just Passover. (You can read the account of Passover in Exodus 12. Passover saved those covered by the blood of the lamb from God’s judgement.
In addition to the Paschal lambs, there were also the Tamid lambs. These were the lambs that were sacrificed twice daily. This sacrifice was continual, every day, and never-ending. These lambs were sacrificed along with a bread offering (flour & oil) and wine for a drink offering.
What does God Desire?
Let’s turn back to Micah, one chapter after the Bethlehem prophecy. In Micah 6:6-8, the prophet says a very interesting thing to God. In light of the sin of his nation, he cries out, asking what type of sacrifice he could possibly bring that would please God:
With what shall I come to the Lord and bow myself before the God on high?
Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves?
Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Does God require us to present our firstborn for our rebellious acts? No, God Himself presented His firstborn.
Does God provide a way for us to fulfill what He requires? Yes, through the power of His Son, Jesus—the epitome of justice, kindness, and humility—was born among the Paschal and Tamid lambs to be our Sacrificial Lamb. Jesus who was the bread offering was broken for us. Jesus who was the drink offering spilled out his life for us. Jesus provided Himself as our perpetual atonement so that God’s judgement will pass over us.
Jesus—our High Priest—hung on the cross and breathed out his last while the Tamid lamb was sacrificed in the temple. Jesus’ last words echoed—but truly fulfilled—the high priest’s words after the Paschal sacrifice, “It is finished.”
Reflecting on His Advent
As we patiently await our Messiah’s Second Advent, let us take to heart Micah’s words. Through the power of Jesus’ Spirit who lives within us, may we live a life that pleases the Lamb of God.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:1-11
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How has viewing Christ's Advent through the lens of the Old Testament impacted your Christmas season?