There’s more to the Christmas story than we realize.
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
In a previous article, I wrote about how we could have a stronger hope because of our Great High Priest. Today, as Christmas approaches, I’d like to go a step deeper to show how our Great High Priest, Jesus, was perfectly suited to usher in the “better hope” of the New Covenant, and it all began at what we celebrate as Christmas. The “Christmas season” is a time of hope, but we often miss the connection between the advent of Jesus as Emmanuel (God with us) and his subsequent role as our Great High Priest in ushering in the New Covenant and its “better hope.” Let me try to sort this out and show you what I mean.
In Jeremiah 31:31, the Lord declares that days are coming when He will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In verses 33-34 He says that He will put His law within them and will write it on their heart; and He will be their God and they will be His people. He will also forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.
The writer of Hebrews makes the point that a new covenant was necessary because the old covenant offered no power to obey its conditions. It had been written on stone and not on their minds and hearts. Despite the Israelites’ vow to keep the law (Ex. 24:3), they failed miserably.
The New Covenant would be based on a different relationship between God and His people, a very personal and intimate relationship. It would also be available to anyone, not just Israel and Judah (1 Cor. 10-11.) It is at this point that the new provision for forgiving their wickedness and “wiping their sins clean” comes into play. Under the terms of the New Covenant, the requirement for forgiveness is that we confess our sins once we are convicted. Forgiveness is provided not because of our sense of regret or our vow to do better, but only because of the death of Christ. He became sin, and when He died, our sin died. It is gone, never to be remembered again.
AS I SEE IT
The law served its purpose in leading us to Christ, who now stands as our Great High Priest. The law’s work is finished when people come to Christ. It couldn’t make them perfect, but now they have come to One who can. Since the Aaronic priesthood under which the law was given has been replaced by the Melchizedek priesthood of Jesus Christ, the condemning work of the law is now obsolete. Condemnation has been replaced by conviction (See Rom. 8:1). The goal now is restoration to fellowship with God and to fruitful service.
Hebrews 8:13 says that what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. Based on the apparent date of writing for the letter we call Hebrews, it appears that the author was referencing Jesus’ prediction that the priesthood, the temple, and all the rituals and sacrifices performed by the priests were about to come to an end as Jerusalem would be overthrown. Yet it was much more that a prediction. It was confirmation that the old system was about to come to an end to prepare the way for the new. With no temple and no priesthood there could be no sacrifices. Unless God provided a way, the people would remain dead in their sins.
This brings us back to Christmas, the first step in God’s plan to usher in a new system. In this system, His Son would become a man, take on the sins of mankind and die for them on a cross, would be resurrected, and take His rightful position as our Great High Priest whose once for all act of selflessness granted us direct access to the presence of God whenever we desired.
As a result, we can face anything the world throws at us by the power that flows from Jesus, our Great High Priest, and it all began at Christmas.
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