Critics of Christianity sometimes allege that our faith is similar to a pagan system since both require a sacrifice. My pastor, who was recently teaching on the topic of blood sacrifice, mentioned the startling example of Llullaillaco Maiden, a mummy discovered in 1999. What is remarkable about this mummy is how well she is preserved. She looks like a girl. Her hair, face, and skin are intact. This is, in part, due to the frigid temperatures in the Argentinian mountains where she was found.
After forensic and archaeological investigation was completed, it was determined that this 13-year-old girl was selected by the Inca religious community, drugged, and eventually sacrificed. According to Inca ideology, the purpose of this ritual was to placate their gods.
Isn’t this the same thing as the sacrifice of Jesus to appease the Christian God? In short, no. There are (at least) three significant differences. First, in the pagan ritual, a person was selected against their will, drugged, and then killed. Jesus, on the other hand, was a willing sacrifice who - on His own initiative - went to the cross.
Second, the pagan sacrifice entails a human offering, requiring a mere mortal to die for a god. In Christianity, however, it is God who offers himself to die on behalf of mere mortals.
Third, the pagan ritual is a work done by man in order to approach or reach up to God. Christianity teaches the opposite: a work done by God in order to save mankind.
The Advent season turns out to be a perfect time to reflect on this amazing reality. It is God Himself who does not leave us in ruin but takes on the nature of man to live and die for us. It is no wonder He is called Immanuel - God with us.