Summary: Evaluate the Sacrifices of Christmas: All our sacrifices can save no one; Christ’s one sacrifice saves all.
Did you see the recent report about the Christmas spending habits of Canadians? Apparently Albertans spend the most - as much as $900 a person. Do you think you’ve spent that much for Christmas this year? $900 sounds like a lot of money but it wouldn’t take long to spend that if, on top of buying presents, you are purchasing Christmas cards, mailing parcels, and hosting a Christmas dinner or two. To afford what we spend at this time of year we have to make sacrifices the rest of the year don’t we? When you get your credit card bill in January you’ll see that the time has come to cut out that daily run to Tim Horton’s or to work overtime until the Christmas bills have been paid off. Still, would you do Christmas any differently? Would you spend less if it meant that you didn’t have to make sacrifices? Probably not. We’re happy to make the sacrifices we do so that others can enjoy Christmas a little bit more.
We, of course, aren’t the only ones making a sacrifice at Christmas. The Son of God made a sacrifice when he was born in a Bethlehem barn. Today we want to evaluate the sacrifices of Christmas. In doing so we’ll see that all of our sacrifices aren’t worth much because they can save no one, while Christ’s one sacrifice saves all.
What is it we hope to achieve with the sacrifices we make at Christmas? We scrimp and save so that we can bring others happiness right? Parents work overtime so they can buy the latest toys for their children. Children break into their piggy banks so they can purchase something “big” for Mom or Dad. While these sacrifices may bring smiles on Christmas Eve or Day, how long will that joy last? Will it even outlast the leftover turkey, or by then will those new toys and gadgets have lost their lustre?
There are ways of extending the happiness our Christmas sacrifices bring. People often talk about gifts that keep on giving. Such a gift might be a donation to a charity that daily feeds poor children in far away countries. But even if we give enough to a support such a child for a whole year, what does it accomplish? We may be saving that child from a year of hunger but just because a child’s belly is full doesn’t mean that his hunger for happiness will be sated. You see there is a bigger problem in this world than hunger; it’s the problem of sin. Sin is the leading cause of death. Actually it is the cause of death (Romans 6:23). If we could only get rid of sin, the world would be free of sadness and despair.
So what sacrifices have you made or are you willing to make to get rid of sin? Perhaps you’ve vowed that this will be a “dry” Christmas – one in which alcohol will not touch your lips. Oh you know that drinking (if you are of age) is not wrong, but you also know that you have the tendency to drink too much on festive occasions. To keep from that sin you have decided not to drink at all. Or perhaps you feel that you have made a sacrifice by being in church this morning. With school being so hectic these last few days you certainly could have used the extra hour of sleep. But can these “sacrifices” or any others we may have made save us or anyone else from sin? Of course not! The verses before our text tell us that not even the animal sacrifices God commanded the Israelites to perform could save them from their sins. The author of Hebrews wrote, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4).
If God did not accept the sacrifices he himself had commanded, what chance do our “sacrifices” have of being acceptable to God? Do we honestly think that we have done God any favours that he should repay us? If so, then we’re like the people of the Middle Ages who thought that if they sacrificed their life while on a Crusade, God would give them heaven. First of all trying to extend God’s kingdom through force is not a work pleasing in God’s sight and even if was, Isaiah tells us that all of our “righteous” acts are like filthy rags in God’s eyes (Isaiah 64:6). Every “good” thing we do is still somehow tainted with sin. Think of how we can’t even hold the door open for others without imagining what a kind person we are. Supposing that God will give us heaven because of our “sacrifices” is like saying that a five-star hotel should let us stay in their best room because we’ve “sacrificed” our garbage and dumped it in their front lobby.