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Thursday, 11 December 2014

Advent 11: Waiting for a priest

Bit of a funny thing to be waiting for. Especially given how much bad press priests have and how negative most people's view of the church is. But, this is what the Bible tells us all of humanity was waiting for: we were waiting for a priest; we were waiting for someone who could get us close to God when we weren't able to do it ourselves.

In the Old Testament, the priests were the ones who risked their lives for the people. They took the blood of animal sacrifices into the holiest part of the temple, the Holy of Holies, to cleanse the people of their sin. The only problem was that the priests were sinful themselves. They could not ever really deal with the problem of our separation from God because they too were separate from him; they too knew that they could not stand before a perfect God; they too were fearful of coming into his terrifyingly and beautifully Holy presence because they knew that his holiness would not ensure their sin.

This isn't a picture of God that is held up very often at Christmas time; we coo over the baby in the manger and forget that our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29) We forget that Isaiah was so terrified of standing before God that he thought he was going to die (Isaiah 6:5). We forget that the most normal response in the bible to encountering God is to fall flat on your face because you know that he is worthy and you are not. We have no right to come into God's presence and no means of getting there by ourselves. 

And yet, on that first Christmas, the Magi gave Jesus the gift of frankincense because they knew he was going to be a priest (Exodus 30:23, 34); he was the one we needed to come to give an altogether better kind of sacrifice which would deal with the problem of sin forever. He would give himself: "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)

And, he would keep on giving of himself. The incredible thing about Jesus' priesthood is that it isn't just about the one act of the cross. He died to bring us near to God, to bring us back to him, but that isn't the only way in which he is a priest. His priestliness isn't defined by a single act of sacrifice. He is still a priest. Even now, he sits beside the Heavenly Father and he prays for his people. He prays for us to draw near. He prays for us to have faith. He prays like he did for Peter that we will keep going even when it seems impossible to do so. (Luke 22:32) He prays that we will know him better. He prays that we will be with him. He prays for us in our every hurt and weakness. At this very moment Jesus is interceding for the people he loves. (Romans 8:34)

Reflection: Lord Jesus, thank you that you love to pray for us. Thank you that you sit at your father's side and intercede for us. Thank you that you love to pray for us to be near you. We pray that we would have confidence today because we know that you are for us. Amen.

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