"Mommy, you left out one of the wisemen!" my then five year old exclaimed.
"I know, hon. I'm leaving him out all year to help me remember to give God my best gifts everyday."
For several years now (decades really), I've chosen one aspect or character of the Christmas story to reflect on and study during the Advent season.
This year I felt led to look closely at the lambs the shepherds were tending when they were pulled up into the glorious message and song of the angels.
Now granted, a lamb is on odd choice! I mean what do they have to do with the Christmas story? I propose... everything!
Where is the first mention of lambs in Scripture?
The first mention of a singular lamb is in Genesis 22.
God had promised Abraham an heir from his own loins. When it seemed God was taking too long to fulfill this promise, Abraham listened to Sarah and tried to fulfill it himself.
God came to Abraham and renewed His covenant with him.
Soon Sarah was pregnant and a son was born.
Isaac, the promised one.
As he grew I'm sure his parents doted on him.
How amazing it must have been to stare into the face of a promise fulfilled!
Then God did the unthinkable; He asked Abraham to sacrifice this child, now a young man; Isaac, the promised one.
Abraham had learned his lesson and he quickly obeyed God.
He, Isaac, and a couple servants began a three day journey to the place God had instructed.
Three days is a long time.
Time to think about what God was asking.
Time to devise a plan of escape.
Time to ponder the consequences of both obedience and disobedience.
Did Abraham reminisce with Isaac?
Did they talk about his childhood and dream of his future?
Did Abraham tear up as they talked and Isaac wonder why?
When Abraham saw the mountain in the distance he left his servants and he and Isaac traveled on.
Isaac began to think things through.
He saw the fire and the knife his father carried.
He himself carried the rough wood on his shoulders.
But there was no lamb for the offering.
He knew the customs of the pagan nations surrounding them.
Perhaps as he grew up he had heard the screams of children in the distance as their father's - the very person who should have protected them, lifted the knife to slay them - a sacrifice to their god.
Had Abraham told him that the One True God would never ask for such a sacrifice?
Had He explained that God only asked the blood of animals in worship of Him?
Yet here they were, father and son, walking toward a mountain; fire, knife, and wood in hand without a lamb.
And then came the question.
"Yes, my son?"
"The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"
"God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."
And they walked on.
The promised one carrying the rough wood on his shoulders.
The father carrying the fire and the knife.
Centuries later another Father and Son would have a similar conversation.
One I imagine had been going on since that first sacrifice in the garden; God killing animals to cover man's nakedness.
A nakedness only recognized because of disobedience.
A disobedience that sat in motion the Father's plan of redemption.
A Promised One who would crush evil and conquer death.
The Promised One.
God's own Son.
The Lamb of God sent to take away the sin of the world.
Thirty-three or so years after His birth, in another garden, near another mountain, He and His Father had a conversation.
It went something like this:
"Father, is there another way? If it is possible, please let this way pass from Me. But I'll do whatever You say."
And like Isaac, this Promised One waked on in obedience, understanding it meant certain and painful death for Him.
He felt the rough wood of the cross as He carried to a hill called Golgotha.
He felt it scrape His back as He hung there struggling to breathe.
He willingly became God's sacrifice for sin.
The Promised One, Messiah, Lamb of God slain for us.
But praise be to God that He didn't stay in the grave!
The Lamb rose from the dead to bring life to all who will believe.
He still bares in His body the scars of that rough wood and the nails that pierced through His flesh to hold Him there.
But He is alive and ready to give eternal life to all who will come to Him.
The only time "lamb" is used as a personal, possessive plural noun is in Revelation 21:27, John's vision of the New Heaven and New Earth.
"Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life."
Those names are written in blood, the blood of Jesus, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. it's the whole reason he was born.
Is your name written there?
This year on the right hand corner of my mantle sits a little hand carved lamb.
It's to remind me of the Lamb's sacrifice for the world.
It also reminds me that there are those in my own family who haven't yet met Him.
Each time I see that little lamb I will say a prayer for their salvation.
Who in your life needs to know this Lamb?
How will you tell them this year?
Until next time,
God bless and keep you!