Monday, December 7, 2015

New Things I've Learned About Christmas

I remember standing on the Mount of Olives looking at the iconic view of the old city wall of Jerusalem. Our guide pointed out where there used to be a road leading into the now sealed gate, during Biblical times.

The people would enter this Eastern Gate (also called the Golden Gate) on their way to worship at the Temple. During the Jewish feast of Passover, the sacrificial lambs were herded down the road and through the gate, into the Temple area to be inspected before the sacrifice.

The lambs were raised from birth for this specific purpose; to be sacrificed as the payment for the sins of the people. The lambs were raised in a small community outside of Bethlehem, five miles south of Jerusalem. This area known for raising the lambs is mentioned several times throughout the Bible. It is the small community of Migdal Edar. The shepherds there were not ordinary shepherds. They were commissioned by the temple Rabbi’s to inspect and certify which lambs were without flaw, perfect. They were to let the flawed lambs go for ordinary purposes, but the perfect lambs they wrapped strips of cloth around, to save for the sacrificial offering at Passover.

The most famous time Migdal Edar is referenced, the name is not used. Given it’s purpose and proximity to Bethlehem, it is believed when the Angel Gabriel announced the birth of baby Jesus, it was to the shepherds at Migdal Edar.

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:10-14

The shepherds who were raising and inspecting the Passover lambs were the first to be told about the Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world. (John 1:29) They were the first to inspect, or admire, the final lamb that would be slain. (Revelation 5:12)

As we celebrate the birth of Christ, are we thinking about the holiday to come? Passover, or Resurrection Day. Do we think about how Jesus was born for the purpose of dying for the payment of our sins?  Christmas is not only a time to remember and admire the baby Jesus. It is also an invitation to bow to Him, as the Magi did.

This season when we see a nativity scene let’s remember Jesus came not only to be seen in the manger, but also to be followed. When baby Jesus grew up, his ministry was to call people to,

“Come, follow me.” Matthew 4:19

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