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  • Writer's picturecelebratemarkakrid

A Look Through the Eyes of Israel; Advent

Advent Season has begun, the four weeks leading up to Christmas.

Did you know Advent means “arrival”? These four Sundays before Christmas are considered the season of the celebration, anticipation, and excitement of the Arrival of Christ, the One who would save the world!

Avent Season has always fascinated me. Over the years, the various churches we have worshipped with have all approached this anticipated season differently. Most have done a reading focused on the promised Messiah, lit a candle, and led the congregation in a focused prayer on Christ, The Savior. Sometimes a family was selected to do the reading, candle lighting, and prayer, each adding a unique personal touch. On many occasions, Mark and I had the kids join us by reading a portion of the assigned prompt when we were called upon to participate. Sometimes it came from the pulpit as the local leaders guided the congregation through this act of worship. I found this act of community worship beautiful. I still look forward to Advent Sundays. Yet after my trip to Israel this past Fall, I see this season of Arrival through different eyes.

As we stood looking over an open field in Bethlehem, our guide tugged at our hearts as he engaged our imaginations in describing what one lone angel’s impact must have been on a few committed shepherds in a quiet field. These were not ordinary shepherds. They had been given the grave responsibility of caring for the “spotless” lambs who faraway travelers would purchase to make a proper offering for themselves and their families during the Passover. These lambs had to be perfect. Without blemish, nick, scrape, smudge, or impurity. The shepherds would bind the feet of these chosen lambs together, place them over their shoulders and around their necks, and holler out ahead of them, “Sacrifice!” to warn those around them not to get near enough to damage these perfect sacrificial lambs. The crowds would hear this announcement and literally make a path for the shepherd to pass through untouched. At times, these shepherds would lay the spotless lamb in a manger, like the one in this picture, with bound feet, to keep it safe and unblemished throughout the night.

When I saw this manager in Old Jerusalem, I did not know that the shepherds used mangers for this purpose; to protect the spotless sacrifice before the Passover. True, a manger was used as a feeding trough for the animals. But also, it made a perfect holding bin for these lambs that needed to be preserved until they were sacrificed.

This changes the lens the shepherds must have seen Jesus through when they found Him “laying in a manger” that Holy night! (Luke 2:12b NIV)

Think about it! They knew what was placed in mangers.

Perfect sacrifices. This must have hit them profoundly as they got off the ground from the terrifying weight of the host of angels flooding their night sky with worship. They listened to the instruction of where to go to find their Savior, and they obeyed and found Him just as the angels said.

They must have been speechless for that moment as they made the connection. And that understanding of the symbolism of the sacrifice and the manger must have fueled their enthusiastic parade of sharing the Arrival of the Awaited Messiah with the world! Of sharing the Gospel with whoever would listen that night!

“He is here! The Spotless Lamb! The Awaited Messiah!” (Read Luke 2:8-20)

I can hear them now!

Oh, we could use some of that same enthusiasm today, couldn’t we? As you celebrate the Advent Season this year, look at it through the lens of these shepherds of ancient days. Ponder the excitement as the Perfect Lamb joined humans. Allow yourself to be speechless in the Presence of Emmanuel, God with us.

Anticipate with fresh wonder this Advent Season.

He is Emmanual; God with us! The Perfect Sacrifice!

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