Remembering the Meaning of Christmas…Outside the Camp

For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. Hebrews 13:11-13

During this Christmas season, many of us Christians will deliberately call to mind the birth of Christ and along with that will come a deep appreciation for one’s salvation. However, as we read Luke 2 together and remember Christ’s birth, let us remind one another that another facet of Christ’s death is a call on each one of us to “go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.”

What Took Place Outside the Camp?
In the Old Testament, there were various unclean activities that occurred outside the Jewish camp. For instance:
  • The leprous were instructed to remain outside the camp until they were cured (Lev 13:46)
  • Those who had contact with the dead were considered unclean and were commanded to be put outside the camp (Num 5:2)
  • Those guilty of breaking the Sabbath were to be put to death outside the camp (Num 15:32-36)
  • Animals were killed outside the camp and then later offered up in the tabernacle as sacrifices to God (Lev 4:21)
Outside the camp was the place for the sick, the unclean, the lawbreakers, and the killing of animals. This was the very place that the Father deemed it appropriate for His Son to take on our diseases, our uncleanness, and our lawless deeds by being put to death as a sacrificial lamb. Truly the cross is not clean and comfortable, but instead dirty and disgraceful, a place that holds all of our regrets.
We Are To Go Outside the Camp
Not only does the Lord call us to believe in such an offensive message, but he commands us to live out this offensive message. He tells us to go outside of our world of comfort to be with Christ, take on the same insults he received, and sacrifice ourselves in the same way he sacrificed himself. Specifically,
  • We are to be sent out into the world as Jesus was sent out. (John 20:21)
  • We are to love our enemies as he loved his enemies (Matt 5:44-45)
  • We are to forgive as we have been forgiven. (Col 3:13)
  • We are to suffer as he has suffered. (1 Pet 2:20-21)
  • We are to love as he has loved us. (Eph 5:2)
Our prayer is that this Christmas all of us will remember not only the benefits of Christ’s death for our souls, but will also remember the call of Christ to join him outside the camp where we are to suffer as he has suffered, love as he has loved, and forgive as we have been as he forgave us.

Author: Stacey Hare

Stacey is a servant of Jesus Christ as well as a wife, mom, linguist, and Bible translator. Right now she is working creating literacy materials so the Kwakum people can learn to read and write in their language. She is also working on translating Old Testament stories into Kwakum with her husband and local Kwakum colleagues.