As a family, my beloved wife Sangeetha, cherished son Reuben and I, got to spend 2011 Christmas in Egypt and were blessed to visit the colossal and spellbinding Pyramids of Giza, the magnificent Egyptian museum, the Citadel and its museums, sail the Nile and visit Old Cairo with its beautiful Coptic museum, the Babylon Fortress, the Hanging Church and various churches of early Christian martyrs. During our visit to the Coptic museum, on December 23, 2011, amongst many ancient artifacts, in the Christian painting section of the museum, was an incomplete ancient Coptic painting that depicted the faithful act of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac.
As we were describing the artifacts to our five year old, Reuben, my wife and I explained to Reuben the story of Abraham and his test of faith by God. I told Reuben, “Abraham was a friend of God, but God wanted to test Abraham and see if he loved God more than he loved his son, Isaac, his only son (whom he loved a lot). So God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son as a test. Abraham believed God and passed the test, and God provided a ram to be sacrificed in the place of his son.” Reuben listened to that account, attentively and carefully and after I had finished telling him the account, he inquisitively asked, “Dada, if God asked you to sacrifice me, what would you do?” The question caught me off-guard and succumbed me into an emotional roller coaster, as I pondered as to what life would be without our son; it would break my heart and it would be unbearable, to say the least. So I responded, by saying, “I would plead and cry and ask God to take my life instead of requiring yours; I would sacrifice myself for you. In this matter I would disobey God.” To this, Reuben responded, “Dada, you can say okay to God” and as I was being surprised by his expression, his next statement struck me in awestruck wonder and left me spellbound, for he said “You can sacrifice me, for even if you do, God can raise me up from the dead.” My wife and I were touched at such a simple yet profound faith. To obey is better than sacrifice.
As we waited in the Mar Girgis metro station to board the train to the Sofitel hotel in Gezirah (Opera metro), I realized that the true meaning of Christmas had been implicitly communicated to me, through our beloved son. While we think of Christmas, mostly as the birth of Jesus Christ, on his created earth, and wish one another “Merry Christmas”, I wondered if the conversation in the tribunal in heaven, prior to Jesus’ birth, was similar to the conversation, my son and I had, where Jesus willingly offered to be sacrificed. I wondered if the conversation in heaven was as follows:
Father God: What can I do, for man, our most precious created being, has sinned and fallen short of our glory? (Romans 3:23) What can I do to bring man back to me?
Holy Spirit: The perfect sacrifice, not made of human hands! (Hebrews 9:11-12, Hebrews 10:14)
Father God: Now where can I get the perfect sacrifice, one who is without blemish; sinless and guileless! (1 Peter 2:22)
Holy Spirit: Only in your Only begotten Son! (John 3:16)
Father God: Oh no, that would break my heart and it would be unbearable.
Holy Spirit: But there is no other way – for only Jesus is The Way, and that is The Truth and only in him is The Life! (John 14:6)
God the Son: Father God, You can sacrifice me, for even if you do, you can raise me up from the dead. I willingly offer my life to be the sacrificial lamb of God, for the redemption of mankind. (John 10:16-17)
Father God: I wish there was another way, my beloved son, but since there is none, when the fullness of time comes (Galatians 4:4), you shall be conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, in a manger, in the town of Bethlehem, and be named Jesus, for you shall save our people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
This day shall they call Christmas, in memory of your birth, but in essence, it was the manifestation of your offer to be sacrificed, for you said, “You can sacrifice me!“
Points to ponder:
Merry Christmas everyone or should we say, “God, we lay our lives to you as a living sacrifice as did your Son Jesus” and that I have learned from my five year old son, is the true meaning of Christmas.
Galatians 4:4-5 (KJV)
4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Matthew 1:20-21 (KJV)
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
John 10:15-18 (KJV)
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.