While millions stormed the stores last week in search of bargains on Black Friday, twenty thousand Muslims filed quietly into the Dallas Convention Center for prayer. The occasion? Eid-al-Adha, “the day of sacrifice,” one of the holiest days in Islam. Some refer to it as the “Muslim Christmas.” The day is set aside to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his own son.
The Old Testament story is familiar to students of the Bible. Abraham had obeyed God, launching out into an unfamiliar land with his wife who, in her old age gave birth to a son of promise. Like most fathers, Abraham doted upon his cherished child of promise until his faith in God was tested. Would he be willing to offer his son as a sacrifice to God? In ultimate obedience, Abraham prepared for the sad climb to the mountain’s peak, loading the wood for the sacrificial fire on his son’s back.
At the last moment, with the child laid upon the sacrificial pyre and his hand grasping the knife, God stopped him dead in his tracks and provided a ram for the sacrifice. Eid –al-Adha celebrates God sparing the son for a sacrificial ram instead. Abraham called the place “The Lord Will Provide” because God provided his own sacrifice. (Genesis 22:13).
Abraham’s experience changed our understanding of God. Instead of seeking sacrifices from us, God pays the penalty of our sin with His own sacrifice. When the prophets looked forward to the coming Messiah, they described Him as the One who would become the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Isaiah wrote, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:6-7). The Psalmist described this sacrifice saying, “They have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” (Psalm 22). John introduced Jesus to his future followers by saying, “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29).
Islam has always recognized Jesus as a prophet. Increasingly, Muslims are discovering clues within their own religion that indicate Jesus, or Isa as he is called in the Koran, is more than a prophet. He is God’s gift to us in order that our sins might be forgiven and we might have eternal life. By some estimates, sixteen thousand Muslims turn to Christ every day in Africa alone. Many cite a growing movement in Islam to embrace Jesus as the Savior.
No amount of sacrifice on our part can pay for our sins, but God provided the perfect sacrifice in His Son, as the Scripture says, “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.” God desires that we accept His amazing gift in Jesus and live lives that honor Him. What better way to begin the Christmas season than accepting God’s life transforming gift in Jesus.