Christmas is the singular news that God delivered salvation. Maybe nobody understood this better than the shepherds who received the news about Jesus’ birth from the angels. Many scholars believe the shepherds cared for slaughter sheep. Sheep that were getting ready to be butchered at the time of the Passover. The people of Israel were experts at killing sheep. They had been doing it for over a thousand years. Every year at Passover Jewish pilgrims would come to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. They would bring lambs to be slaughtered, as many as 250,000 lambs at one time. And that was just at Passover. Down through the centuries, millions of lambs had been slaughtered by the Jewish people. It was a bloody, messy business. But why all of this bloodletting? Because God wanted the people to realize the need for sacrifice. He wanted the people to realize that without blood, there was no forgiveness of sin. A price had to be paid.
Because at the end of the day, we are not mistakers: we are sinners. We are people who insist on our way instead of God’s way. We are people who choose to disobey and dishonor God. I am sure the shepherds knew Isaiah 53. I think they had read it. Listen to Isaiah 53:6, “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” That is our dilemma. Each of us has turned to his own way. Each of us has sins that need to be paid for.
But this is the good news of Christmas! I’m sure the shepherds had read the rest of Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53 celebrated the greatest news of all. That someday a Savior would come. And this Savior would abolish forever the need for any more sacrifices. Any more bloodletting. Isaiah 53:5-6, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed…the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Jesus was the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world!
As you celebrate this Christmas, remember the Lamb that later went to the cross!