A Perfect High Priest

Pause: Hebrews 4:14-5:10, 8:1-13, 9:11-28

After the Christmas holidays are over, the food eaten, the gifts opened, and the carols sung, I am ready for my annual deep clean before the new year arrives. My family and I put away the Christmas decor, wash the windows, clean the floors, sift through closets, take second-hand items to a thrift store, wash bedding, and restock the pantry shelves with healthy food. After all the preparations for a new year are complete, we usher it in with family time, traditional snacks, puzzles, board games, and movies.

Much like the holidays I prepare for and then celebrate, the Jewish people have long marked holidays that involve preparation, fasting, feasting, resting, readings, and worship as a way to remember what God has done for them and to celebrate His goodness and love toward them. One such holiday, the Day of Atonement, was an annual gathering of God’s people to remember the covenant with their God that was broken because of their sin and to be made right again with Him. The priests played a prominent role as they called the people to worship and prepared the tabernacle and themselves before the high priest entered the Holy of Holies to make sacrifices on behalf of the people. Although this day was greeted with mourning and fasting in response to their sin, the preparations culminated in joy as the debt of sin was paid and the relationship with their creator God was restored. 

We don’t have the tabernacle and high priests to offer sacrifices annually on our behalf today. Instead, we have something so much better. Our God sent His Son Jesus to incarnate as a baby, to be our Immanuel, and act as our high priest and mediator before God. Jesus went on to die on a cross, becoming the perfect and final sacrifice for our sins. Because of this, we, too, can have a new start and participate in a new covenant that restores our relationship with God. Let us take time today to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas as we remember our need for the One found in a manger who became our high priest so many years ago.

Ponder: God gave the Israelites a specific day each year to remember their sin and come to Him for forgiveness and reconciliation through the high priest. Why is it important that we take time to remember our sin? In remembering our sin, how do we find forgiveness and reconciliation with our God? How can the knowledge of your sin being forgiven and reconciliation made with your God bring you joy today? How does knowing about Christ’s atoning work on the cross help you prepare your heart to celebrate Christmas?

Pray: Father, thinking about my sin and remembering my brokenness is an uncomfortable place for me. I do not like to be reminded of all my shortcomings of which there are many. Thank You that You love me despite my sinful brokenness and have loved me so much to send Jesus to be a high priest and mediator for me before You that I might know You. May I walk in light of the truth of Your sacrifice of love for me. Amen.

— Jamie Harms