To us, a lamb is born, to us, a lamb is given. He is the lamb of God who is born to be a blood sacrifice: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. He is the one life offered for the lives of all, a one time for all time sacrifice through which we are repaid double (grace upon grace) for our sin. He is the one who is born of a virgin who takes away the sin of the world.
The blood of the Word of God, born of Mary, is a substitute for our blood. His suffering and God-forsaken abandonment are substituted for what our sin earns us. He dies the most ignoble death so that we can be raised from the grave as he says [to the Father]: “you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Ps 16:10).
That’s why Jesus comes in the way of the sacrificial lamb. Jesus comes to do something for us that we can’t do for ourselves. He comes to bail us out along with the whole sin-beaten universe. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the kosmos” — the world, the entire universe, and not just the sins of a chosen few (John 1:29). The blood of the lamb pours out for the whole universe.
At his birth, death, resurrection, and from the foundation of the world, the whole universe sings: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” (Rev 5:12), who by his cross has conquered sin and death. With his blood, he has “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9).
It’s not just that he’s born and given, but that he’s born and given for us.
“Lamb of God slain for the sin of the world” has always been how God reveals himself to us. From Genesis to Revelation, the witness of Scripture depicts God as both giver and gift. The one who demands a blood sacrifice locates himself in the blood sacrifice to ransom his people from sin and death. Jesus saves his people by sacrificing himself for them in every lamb slain on Israel’s altars and as the Lamb of God slain on the cross. This is the promise of Advent, that our God comes to us in the way of a lamb slain. He’s born for us and given as a sacrifice for us.
It’s not just that he’s born and given, but that he’s born and given for us. The reason God chose to be born is so that we can receive a new life through his death and resurrection. As Martin Luther preaches:
“If anyone believes this, he can boast of the treasure that Mary is his rightful mother, Christ his brother, and God his Father. These things actually occurred and are true, but we must believe. This is the principal thing and the principal treasure in every Gospel. Christ must above all things become our own and we become his. This is what is meant by Isaiah: “Unto us, a child is born, unto us, a son is given.” To us, to us, to us is born, and to us is given this child” (Sermon for Christmas Day; Luke 2:1–14).
The promise of Advent is the promise of the lamb slain, who is born and given for us so that we don’t have to fear sin, death, and hell. The blood of the lamb washes all that away with his promise of forgiveness, new life, and our resurrection to eternal life.