Summary: You cannot think of the baby in the manger at Bethlehem without also thinking of the bloody cross at Calvary
Christmas is Sacrifice
Text: Hebrews 10:1-14
Introduction: In England there is a place called The Pilgrim Way. It is one of the many footpaths throughout the country, but it is unique in that it was the path that Christians, for hundreds of years, took as a religious pilgrimage. For many it was a way to do penance and earn merit with God. The trail ends in the town of Canterbury at the great cathedral named for it. It is here that Christians over the centuries have knelt at the spot where Thomas Becket was killed by the knights of Henry II. The story behind the death of Becket is that he was a close friend of Henry II who appointed him to his court. When the position of Archbishop of Canterbury came open, Henry placed Thomas Becket in the position thinking he would do his bidding. But something happened to Becket after he was appointed as spiritual leader of England. He stopped being complacent about his faith. He put politics and luxury behind him. He gave up his former wealth and style of life. And to his peril, he began to oppose the king when it came to differences between the church and the government. As a consequence, he paid the ultimate sacrifice.
But Becket’s willingness to be a martyr for the faith did not earn him a place in heaven. Neither does a pilgrimage to this site, great sacrifice though it may be for those hoping to incur God’s favor. The whole point of the Christian faith is that we can never earn our salvation, no matter how hard we work, or how great a sacrifice we make. Even if we give our bodies to be burned for the sake of the Gospel, or crawl to Jerusalem on broken glass it would not make us one bit more worthy of heaven. There is only one way that our sins can be taken away — only one sacrifice that is sufficient to atone for them.
The first Christmas was a time of sacrifice for many. Consider for a moment the price that was paid by many of the key players in this story: (1) It cost Mary her reputation when she became pregnant without being married. (2) It cost her and Joseph the security of home during a long period of exile in Egypt to protect the little Babe. (3) It cost mothers in and around Bethlehem the lives of their children as some of their babies were murdered by the cruel order of Herod. (4) It cost the shepherds as they abandoned their comfortable livelihood, with the call to the manger and the subsequent commission to tell the good news. (5) It cost the wise men a long journey and expensive gifts to worship the Christ-child. But there is none more significant than that mentioned in our text this morning,
Notice verse five for a moment. For centuries, Israel lived under the sacrificial system that was instituted at the giving of the Law to Moses. All of that changed, however, when Christ came into the world at His incarnation and offered Himself as a sacrifice. Why did He do it? Let’s look at the passage and see what the Word tells us.
When Christ came into the world...
I. He sacrificed Himself to take away our sin. In the first four verses of chapter ten the writer of Hebrews talks of the failure of the Law to bring about salvation (See Hebrews 10:1-4). In order to understand these verses you must know the meaning of two key words.
A. "Shadow" - We’re told that the law (which in this case is described as only a "shadow" of the good things that are coming...") was incapable of making perfect those who drew near in worship. The word "shadow" suggests something that is indefinite. Paul used the same term when talking about some of the Jewish festivals and celebrations (See Colossians 2:16-17). The idea is that they revealed a glimpse of reality, but still it (the reality) was obscured and as a result often misinterpreted. Illustration: Have you ever pulled out a Tupperware bowl from the refrigerator and tried to figure out what was in it without cracking the seal? If you have, then you know that sometimes you guess right and sometimes you guess wrong. Why? Because you can only see the outline of what is actually inside. This is how the law was viewed. It gave only a dim outline of what was to come. In fact the law failed to present this reality in a form that most Jews could recognize and understand because they continued to offer these sacrifices even after Christ had appeared.
B. "Realities" - The word used here is the Greek word for "image." It suggests something that is substantial and a true representation of that which it images. In this case the "reality" is given in Christ (See 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15). He is the only solution for our sin. Whereas the law was given as a reminder of sins, Christ’s sacrifice cleanses us from it and removes the guilt of sin.