The pagan Sallustius wrote
Prayers without sacrifices are only words, with sacrifices they are live words; the word gives meaning to the life, while the life animates the word. “On the Gods and the World”
I don’t usually turn to 4th century pagan authors for instruction concerning my faith but I think Sallustius’ point is very much in line with one of the major teachings of scripture and that is that our words are powerful only when matched with action. For example James says
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17
Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ need to remember that are words are only powerful when they are a part of action and faith. Anyone can say something when it costs them nothing. There is no bravery or admirable quality in making a fine speech about trusting in Christ. The brave and admirable quality is found when someone’s words are backed up by action and sacrifice. Such words are costly and through their costly nature God makes them powerful.
Now Sallustius was talking about literal animal sacrifices which were a part of his religion. Our sacrifices are different. Our sacrifices are personal. They involve our time, our money, our attitudes, our energy, and more. This past Sunday night at Tapestry I talked about some of the Christmas cliché’s like “Jesus is the reason for the season” or “keep Christ in Christmas” (this last one drives me nuts – if your god can be chased out of something then he isn’t God.). I think those statements are weak and pathetic usually because there are no actions or sacrifice behind them. You say “Jesus is the reason for the season” and then celebrate the Incarnation the same way as those who don’t believe anything about Jesus. You say “keep Christ in Christmas” and then remember His birth in manners that ignore people in need who bear His image. Weak. Pathetic. Powerless.
Come on people! May we live in such a way that our Christmas words and prayers have sacrifice behind them and they are thereby powerful. May we celebrate the birth of Christ in a manner that pleases Him.
SIDE NOTE – While searching for a link for this post I found this icon of Christ and it maybe my favorite image of Jesus for the next month or so (I have a odd fascination with weird images of Christ). It looks to me like Jesus as a grumpy, Jewish, middle aged man whereas Jesus was only the latter two of those three descriptors.