My Bible reading this morning was about Abraham and Isaac. You know the one, they are walking together — father and son — with sticks and flame and knife toward Mount Moriah to make a sacrifice. Isaac, though young, is pretty sharp. “Hey, Dad, I noticed we don’t have an animal with us for the sacrifice.” Abraham assures him that God will provide what is needed, knowing full-well that God has told him to sacrifice Isaac.
Can you imagine? I don’t think we can. Here we sit in the United States of America — the land of the free, the home of the brave, the place where parents give their children everything. Everything. I am not exempt from this. I remember my mother telling me when I was younger, “If I had the money, I would buy you everything.” And I knew she would. Still one of her greatest joys is giving to her children and her grandchildren. Like mother, like daughter. I love to give my children what they need and what they want. I sometimes go overboard. I sometimes lose track of what they need and what they want, and buy them things that I think they need or want, and even things that no one needs or wants.
So, can I imagine depriving them of something? Or, gasp, agreeing to sacrifice them? No. Not at all.
But Abraham had heard from God, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and…offer him there as a burnt offering…”
Abraham “rose up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac.”
Abraham had waited for this kid. He and Sarah had Isaac in their old age. They had longed for him. Prayed for him. And, finally, they had welcomed him. And now Abraham was supposed to lay him on an altar, put a knife into him, and then burn him?
Hebrews 11 says ” By faith, Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he … was in the act of offering up his only son…” when God said “Do not lay your hand on the boy…now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Genesis 22).
He didn’t make him go through with it! He Himself provided a ram for Abraham,… and a Lamb for us.
If we picture ourselves placing our own children on an altar and raising the knife, we can see our eyes squeezed shut, the sweat beads forming on our brow, the sheer anguish, praying that God will provide. What relief Abraham must have felt! God had provided. His only son didn’t have to become a sacrifice.
But His Only Son did.
And how do we celebrate this? How do we mark the relief, the thankfulness that we feel when we realize that we have been rescued?
It’s hard to do this with integrity in a culture that hauls out Santa in October, pipes holiday muzak from every speaker, and pressures us to have the perfect gift for everyone on our list. We are so bombarded by a consumer culture that we can’t even fathom giving up having a Christmas tree, let alone giving up a child.
That is, after all, what Christmas celebrates. The Child. The Sacrifice. The Gift.
I forget about that. I am so consumed with finding the perfect gift for my kids, my spouse, my parents, that I forget about The Perfect Gift. I online shop and run from store to store in order to find that special item, and I overlook The Special Item. Sure, I squeeze in Advent worship and Christmas Eve worship. I sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Joy to the World” but if I am going to be honest (and you know I am) I put my focus on the gifts instead of The Gift.
But things are shifting over here in the little house by the river. As I continue on the Minimalist Challenge, and trim out the unnecessary, I am finding it easier to see the things that really matter. I am unwilling to forfeit my Bible, my journals, my laptop, or my family photos. I am willing instead to get rid of old puzzles, dusty books, unworn clothing, an extra crockpot, an electric roaster, and a yoga mat that I never use anyway. I am hoping that as I send more clutter out the door, I will be less distracted and more able to see all the blessings that The Gift has provided for me — not the things that I can pick up on clearance at Target, but the priceless gifts of family, health, love, faith, friendship…
I am learning a lot in this next chapter, guys. I’ll add learning to my list of priceless gifts.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
It teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.