Baptism of Christ, Giotto, 1304-`306

Baptism of Christ, Giotto, 1304-`306

Brothers and sisters: When Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.’“ First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in.” These are offered according to the law. Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.” He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.( Hebrews 10:5-10)

Why this passage for Advent?

Because of the line “When Christ came into the world, he said”. The writer of Hebrews wants us to know, from the moment of the incarnation forward, what the intention of Christ was: to do God’s will, whatever that was and wherever that led, even to the sacrifice of the cross. To make that point he puts words in the mouth of Jesus, the words of the fortieth Psalm. In that Psalm the perennial message of the prophets is personally affirmed: the living sacrifice of the human heart in obedience, rather than the sacrifice of bulls and goats ,was God’s ultimate and true desire. The writer of Hebrews places in the mouth of Jesus the full acceptance of that truth and the complete embracing of it for his own life. Christ says, “As it is written of me in the scroll, behold I come to do your will , O God.”

Should the writer of Hebrews be putting such words in Jesus’ mouth? In this case, absolutely and unequivocally, Yes! Why? Because he is only saying in a beautiful and poetic way exactly what Christ really did say about himself over and over again. And he is beautifully demonstrating how the Psalms and all the books of the Old Testament spoke of Jesus in figures and types long before he came. Listen to Jesus himself: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:34) Again he says, “I seek not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:30) And again, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. ”(John 6:38) Finally, and ultimately, we hear him in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as you will.”(Matthew 26:39)

Christ was born to do God’s will, and he did so throughout his life, being “obedient unto death, even death on a cross”. And so it is by his obedience that we are saved. As Paul puts it in Romans, “For as by one man’s (Adam) disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)

Moreover, that obedience is meant to be the pattern for each of us. Christ, we are told, is the new Adam, living from the beginning to the end the life Adam and each of us were meant to live. We are all called to be like him and make our lives a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:2).

Some may back away from an obedience so complete, believing that serving God means loss to self. After all, look what it got Jesus – a cross. Others may say it is our duty anyway. In truth, they are right; it is our duty anyway. However, there is more to it than that. Obeying God did bring Christ to the cross but on the cross he became the Savior of the world; and beyond the cross, his obedience brought him to the resurrection, to eternal glory, and to the right hand of God. Adam, Satan, and all of us have made the same mistake too often and too long. Obeying God in the long term loses us nothing, but gains us everything and has it the power to bless countless others in the world around us. .

In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

“Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? . . . No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.”

Christ’s Christmas gift to us was giving his life in obedience as a sacrifice for us, may ours be the same for him. May our life-long pledge be just as his: “Behold I come to do your will, O God.”

 

Fred Durham is the President of Alighieri Press and serves as an author and speaker.