Jesus and Sacrifice: What will I give up?
TS Eliot writes in The Journey of the magi that “This birth was hard and bitter agony for us, like death, our death”. Indeed, this is the way of the Christ follower, the way of the cross. An encounter with Jesus, the birth of God among leads us always to our own death!
The symbols of our faith should teach us that: baptism, our entry into the church by symbolically dying with Christ, going into the tomb (under water), before being raised up to new life and Holy Communion: Christ’s body given, his blood shed. Do this in remembrance! And at its heart the way of Jesus is the way of sacrifice: learning how to live fully in spite of the trials and tribulations and is characterised by Sacrifice, especially when we live in a consumerist culture that is obsessed with me having everything that I want now. In a crazy, me-first, consumer driven society, if we are to follow Jesus we have to learn how to give up what we think is due to us and we would do well to ask ourselves what we think we’re entitled to. That’s why times like Lent are so important: A time of giving up, the practice of fasting, living a simple life even the spiritual discipline of tithing, sacrificial giving!
The way of Jesus is characterised also by suffering, to drink the cup Jesus drinks and be baptised with His baptism. If we dare ask Jesus to give us an easy comfortable life filled with power, possession and prestige we have misunderstood what following him is about. We are reminded that whoever loses his life for the sake of the gospel will save it (Mark 8).
And finally through servanthood. Jesus tells his disciples that they are not to exercise authority or lord it over others, to place ourselves in a position of power over somebody else, even just in our own minds (I’m better than they are…). The follower of Jesus to embody the antithesis of power: to take the role of a servant who has absolutely nothing. Remember in John’s gospel how Jesus illustrates this by washing their feet?
As Eliot said, this birth - the birth of Jesus in their lives - was hard and bitter agony for them, like death, their death
it really does feel like dying when we asked to give up things that society expects and encourages us to have, that in many cases we’ve spent our lives accumulating. Nevertheless it is something we do well to strive towards through Lent, sacrificial giving, the path of descent.