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The ‘Off-The-Grid’ Christmas Story

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus / Born to set Thy people free.

– Charles Wesley, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” (1744)

 The Redeemer has broken every bond: / The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.



– Placide Cappeau, O Holy Night, (1847)

In the Beginning

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  Then God created man in His own image.  He gave us the world and promised us life and joy.  But we rebelled against God’s word.  Adam chose to place his own interpretation on reality, an interpretation shaped by his inward desire to be his own god.

God could have destroyed man and his world on that day.  But instead, He made a promise.  A Hero would come to reconcile God to man and man to God (Gen. 3:15).  And as a sign and seal of that promise, God sacrificed animals … probably lambs … and clothed our first parents with their skins.

As the faithful thought about that sacrifice, as they repeated it year after year, they should have seen that the sacrificial lamb died in the place of rebels.  The lamb was a representative, a substitute of sorts.  Through the sacrificial lamb, God was promising reconciliation and peace through a substitute.

But the lamb itself was not the substitute. After all, the slaughter of lambs and goats and bulls would go on for 4,000 years.  Every sacrifice pointed to the Substitute, but no animal sacrifice was the Substitute.  The faithful could have reasoned that the promised Hero would be the Substitute, but that would be an incredible conclusion, because the Substitute had to die.  But Heroes never die in a good story … do they?

Waiting for Messiah

Two thousand years after God gave His first promise, He called Abraham out of the city of Ur in Mesopotamia and led him to the land of Canaan — what we call Palestine.  God gave him a promise.  Abraham would become the channel through whom God would bless the whole world.  “In thy Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18).  Abraham would be the ancestor of the great Hero who would restore the world to God’s blessing.

To confirm this promise, God swore an oath to Abraham.  In a terribly stark but powerful ceremony, God swore unilaterally that He would not let His promise fail … that He Himself would die rather than let His promise fail (Gen. 15).  There was a hint here.  Later, God imposed the bloody rite of circumcision on Abraham and his descendants.  Circumcision pointed to the necessity of God’s saving grace.  There could be no hope in natural generation.  The flesh could only produce the flesh.  The promised Seed, the Hero and Substitute, would be born through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Abraham, of course, was the ancestor…