The Name

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21, NIV)

The angel spoke such a simple sentence, but it had profound meaning. This is the message of Christmas and Easter — and all of Christianity — summed up in one sentence.

She will give birth to a son. This will not be a normal son. This boy will be conceived by the Holy Spirit. How? We don’t know exactly because the Bible does not elaborate. We do know it was a miracle, meaning it cannot be explained through scientific or natural laws.

You are to give him the name Jesus. When we look at Mary and Joseph’s genealogies (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38), we see this is not a family name. It was hand-picked by God because of its meaning: the Lord saves. What a big name — and mission — for a baby to grow into! But Jesus can and did accomplish His mission and live up to His name.

He will save his people from their sins. This is the whole reason Jesus came to earth. His purpose was not to be born in a manger. It was not to live a sinless life. It was not to overthrow the Roman government. It was not to establish a new religion. Jesus came to sacrifice Himself to pay the spiritual penalty for our sins.6

This is the message of Christmas. When we understand that, we can join with the angels in proclaiming:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14, NIV)

God deserves all the glory and praise we can give Him. He sent peace to earth by enabling us to reconcile with Him and experience a loving relationship. Surely His favor rests upon “his people”, those who accept His offer and find peace in Him.

As you celebrate Christmas, look beyond the beloved traditions and sparkling lights. Remember whose birth we are celebrating and the reason He came to earth. This makes it easy to join the angels in offering glory to God.

Sisters,
What is most meaningful to you about Christmas?
Has the Lord saved you through Jesus? From what were you saved?
If you have not accepted Jesus’ offer to pay for your sins, this is a great time to do so. There are no special words, just talk to God and acknowledge that you have sinned against Him and cannot earn His favor. Thank Him for sending Jesus to take the punishment you deserve. Thank Him for giving you peace and far more life that starts now and lasts for eternity.
If you have already accepted Jesus, give Him the glory He deserves.
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Lifeblood

A precious woman in my circle passed away this week. She lived a long life and was ready to go home to her Creator and Savior. I remember hearing her say that we do not talk about the blood of Christ enough anymore. “It’s all about the blood,” she told me. The conversation stuck with me and ever since I have noticed Bible verses, songs, and messages that directly reference the blood of Christ. I am writing this post in remembrance of that dear woman and her desire for the sacrifice and power of Jesus’ blood to be known, respected, and celebrated.

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. (Leviticus 17:11, NIV)

God emphasized the importance of blood to the Israelites; blood contains life. It carries oxygen and nutrients to our cells. It carries waste to organs that filter and expel it from the body. Blood also fights infection and delivers regulatory hormones. It contains living cells and is essential to our well-being. Blood is powerful!

God has also chosen blood to be the vessel of atonement. Starting with the first human sin, innocent blood was shed to pay the penalty:

Then the Lord God made clothes out of animal skins for the man and his wife. (Genesis 3:21, CEV)

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they became aware of their nakedness and felt ashamed. To cover their bodies and assuage their shame, God killed animals and used their skins to make clothes. The penalty of human sin has always included the shedding of innocent blood.

Centuries later, on the night of the first Passover, God used the blood of a lamb to mark the homes of His children and save them from death:

The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.  (Exodus 12:13, NIV)

In this case, the blood of innocent lambs was used as a protection; it marked a home where the occupants were obedient to God. The firstborn sons and animals of the household were spared physical death through the sacrifice and blood of one lamb. God instructed His people to remember this through a special celebration every year.

The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22, NIV)

Sacrifices were God’s prescribed way for His people to make amends for their sin — whether intentional or unintentional — and indicate their commitment to Him. Most of these sacrifices, as outlined in Leviticus, required the blood of an animal without blemish or defect. The shedding of blood and sacrifice of the animal restored a person to good standing with God. It paid the penalty for their sin and state of being spiritual unclean before God. Of course, this foreshadowed the sacrifice Jesus would make. The New Testament repeatedly references the life-giving power of the blood of Christ:

…After the supper [Jesus] took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:20, NIV)

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood. (Romans 3:25, NIV)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  (Romans 5:8-9, NIV)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Ephesians 1:7, NIV)

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13, NIV)

The only way we can experience far more life is by acknowledging that Christ gave up His life — His blood — to pay the penalty for our sins. Being sinless, He was innocent before God and in the position to sacrifice Himself for our benefit. His blood is the perfect sacrifice, more spiritually powerful than any animal sacrifice:

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:13-14, NIV)

Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.  (Hebrews 7:27, NIV)

With your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9, NIV)

The blood of Jesus purifies us completely from every sin we commit at any time in our life. He does not need to die over and over again. Knowing we are forgiven of every sin clears our conscience so we are free to live for God instead of being afraid of being punished by Him. And Jesus’ sacrifice applies to people of all cultures, races, and ethnicities; anyone can accept His offer of forgiveness.

Most of us do not like to focus on our sin or on blood. It is easy to minimize our wrongs or take Jesus’ sacrifice for granted. But as I remember my friend today, I also remember her challenge to pay proper respect to the blood of Jesus. To remember the high cost He paid so we could have far more life.

Sisters,
What life-giving aspect of blood is most meaningful to you? Why?
Imagine you are Eve and watch God spill an animal’s blood to clothe your nakedness. How would you feel? How would it change your obedience to God’s commands?
How has the blood of Jesus cleansed your conscience? Has that impacted your eagerness to serve Him?
Thank Jesus for sacrificing His blood and offering you far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay