Romans 12:1

A Living Sacrifice

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

[Reflective Journal]

“Do we have to listen to that song again, mom?” asked the little red-headed boy in the backseat of the family station wagon. Without hesitation, mom always replied, “I have to memorize my music. It’s Living Christmas Tree time.”

For me, the Christmas season was more than getting out of school, anticipating gifts from Santa, and listening to my dad read the Christmas story from the Bible before opening gifts each year. Christmas was about listening to an array of Christmas songs on a cassette tape, over and over again, for many months as mom prepared to sing in our church’s Living Christmas Tree program annually. In fact, the picture above was taken from one of those programs at our church decades ago, and mom can be found on the lower rows; she never liked heights!

Even as a child, I jokingly felt like I should have been on that tree for all the hours spent listening to the music in the car with my mom and unintentionally memorizing every note and word! During the live performances, I could be found sitting in the middle of the church on a wooden pew singing every song and reciting every spoken word.

I have many fond memories of this annual program, but one particular piece within the performance continues to resonant with me to this very day. During the middle of the performance, various choir members would shout out comparisons between “this tree and that tree” referencing the Living Christmas Tree and “that tree” (i.e., cross) highlighted on the church wall.

This tree…that tree. Of all the songs, lyrics, words, instruments, lights, and sounds, I’ve never forgotten the comparison. Jesus was born to die on a barren, brown tree. When I mediate on the symbolism of the Living Christmas Tree and the cross, I cannot help but think of being a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1 speaks of this beautifully as the apostle Paul urges us to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to a God who is merciful!

My prayer for us this Christmas is very simple…may “that tree,” the cross become our daily focus not just on Christmas morning but every day of the year. We become a Living Christmas Tree when we accept the merciful and gracious gift of Christ. Being a living sacrifice has everything to do with offering ourselves completely to the Lord who gave His lifeblood on “that tree.”

God does not delight in burnt offerings but in obedience [1 Samuel 15:22]. This type of obedience is self-sacrifice. Denying the flesh and offering ourselves as a living sacrifice daily is our true and proper worship. This Christmas, may we worship the Lord through obedient sacrifice. It is only through the death of our sinful man that we truly live. This can only be accomplished through the acceptance of Jesus Christ, the One who poured out His lifeblood to atone our sins on “that tree.”

Yes, that baby in the manger was given for all of humanity! Praise God. Offering our bodies as a living sacrifice to the One who gave it all is the only way to be transformed as “Living Christmas Trees” this season and every day.

Romans 6:1-11 Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

May you be a true “Living Christmas Tree” representing Christ this season and every day through your sacrifice.

“Do we have to listen to that song again, dad?” asked my brown-headed son sitting in the back of our family SUV. I looked in the rearview mirror…smiled and laughed inside my soul as memories flooded my mind, “Yes, son. It’s Living Christmas Tree time. Dad has to memorize his music.” Life has a way of bringing us back to where we started yet older and hopefully wiser. I gripped the steering wheel, turned up the music, and asked him to sing along. On the day of our live performance, what did I see? My son singing every song and reciting every word as I stood in that tree a few years ago.

Some traditions are actually ripples; they gently flow from one generation to the next. May this be the season for sacrificial traditions that impact generations to come. Dear believer, offer yourself as a living sacrifice to the One who sacrificed it all giving us a hope and life everlasting – true and enteral life. May this be the season you accept the One who gave it all on “that tree” allowing us to become “The Living Christmas Tree.”

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

[Special thank you: Joe Joslin, Jeremy Fortenberry]

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