How do we respond to Christmas?
For you are recognizing [more clearly] the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [His astonishing kindness, His generosity, His gracious favor], that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich (abundantly blessed). 2 Corinthians 8:9 Amplified
Often we think of the cost of Christmas in terms of how much money we must spend to make it a “good” Christmas. According to an on-line source, most Canadian households spend about $2,500 on Christmas including gifts, decorations and groceries, but have we stopped to consider what it cost for that first Christmas in Bethlehem?
The Cost to Mary and Joseph
What did it cost Mary and Joseph? It must have been an amazing experience for Mary to have had that angelic visitation and to learn that she would be the one who was going to give birth to the Messiah. Her faith in God was strong. However, to be expecting a baby before you were married during that time in history must have been terrifying. Joseph, the man Mary loved and was engaged to didn’t even believe her when she first told him what the angel had said. Joseph probably assumed that she had been with another man, and that their marriage would have to be called off. Her friends and family would have thought the same thing. God knew Mary was innocent and she was greatly honoured in God’s sight because of her faith, but all those who knew her probably thought differently. The angel was long gone and now she was left to explain it to everyone.
Joseph was a man who loved God with all his heart. He must have been shocked and heart-broken when Mary broke the news to him that she was pregnant—and it was such an unbelievable story at that. He was a man of principle, committed to God and realized he could not marry someone involved in such sin. His plans and hopes for the future seem dashed and yet he was a man of compassion. He did not want to take revenge on Mary for her supposed unfaithfulness, but he wanted to end this quietly and discretely. He was going to follow God no matter what anyone else did.
Of course, we know God revealed the truth to Joseph and he then accepted Mary. Although perfectly innocent, both Mary and Joseph had their reputations ruined. It no doubt cost them friendships and probably business as well. It cost Joseph his marital rights for a season and the joy of fathering Mary’s first child. If they were now to look back over the cost of Christmas, would they say it was worth it? Yes, a thousand times, yes! The benefits of God moving in our lives and using us always far out-weighs the cost, but make no mistake - there is always a cost to Christmas.
The Cost to the Shepherds
Of all of the biblical characters who witnessed the birth of Christ, the shepherds are often given the least significance. And yet, through their obedience, diligence, and love for the newborn Christ, this group of humble herdsmen left their fields to make their way to see the baby.
In the same region there were shepherds staying out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone around them, and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for [a]all the people. For this day in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (the Messiah). Luke 2:8-11 Amplified
What did it cost the shepherds? The scriptures say they were greatly afraid when they saw the angels. On a quiet night in the fields they were used to hearing the sounds of the sheep, the crickets and maybe a few bullfrogs, but they were not expecting the sky to be lit up with hosts of angels. The sights and sounds were brilliant and loud —it was nothing like they had ever seen before. It was spectacular to say the least!
Then suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host (angelic army) praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest [heaven], And on earth peace among men with whom He is well-pleased.” Luke 2:13,14 Amplified
I’ve often wondered why the host of angels chose a group of people from one of the lowest ranks of society to announce the birth of a King. I believe it was their child-like faith in God and their willingness to act and tell others that the child had been born. Shepherds had certain characteristics that made them the perfect group for the angels to appear to, but there was a cost for the Shepherds. They gave their time. They would have had to get others to watch the sheep while they were away. It would have cost them to pack food and belongings to travel to see the baby. It cost them their obedience to act on what they had heard and it would have taken courage to tell others about what they had seen. No one else had seen the angels. Why would anyone believe what a lowly shepherd had to say, especially when the story was so incredible?
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying one to another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem, and see this [wonderful] thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the Baby as He lay in the manger. And when they had seen this, they made known what had been told them about this Child, and all who heard it were astounded and wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these things, giving careful thought to them and pondering them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them. Luke 2:15-20 Amplified
The Cost to the Magi
The Magi were wise. They were educated men who specialized in astronomy, astrology, and the natural sciences. They gave of their time, talents, treasures, and testimonies.
And after entering the house, they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then, after opening their treasure chests, they presented to Him gifts [fit for a king, gifts] of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 Amplified
They had journeyed far to see this Child—a gift of time. It took months for them to arrive in Bethlehem to see the child. During their journey, they had to bring enough provisions for them and all who travelled with them.
They had to postpone whatever financial benefits they may have accrued if they had stayed home.
They had followed His star—a gift of knowledge and talent—They had studied the stars and knew their placement in the sky and how to use them to navigate their journey.
They desired to worship Him and brought Him gifts—Gold, frankincense and myrrh are gifts of great value and importance that are worthy of a king.
When they came before Jesus, they “fell down and worshipped Him.” In doing so, they acknowledged both His Lordship and His Kingship—a gift of testimony.
The Cost King Herod was Not Willing to Pay
When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem and asked “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Matt. 2:1-2, instead of submitting to the cost and welcoming the child, King Herod felt the baby was a threat to his throne and his power. The Magi were to report back to him when they found Mary, Joseph and the baby but God gave them a message in a dream not to go back to Herod. They returned home by another route. After the Magi left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream saying “Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.” Matt. 2:13-15
The king was so angry when the Magi did not return, that he ordered all the baby boys in the Bethlehem area under the age of two to be murdered. I cannot imagine the horror and grief that this caused both to the families and to the soldiers who were ordered to carry out this evil plan. They were the ones who had to pay the cost for this tragedy because of King Herod’s ego and arrogance!
The Cost to the Son of God was the Greatest of All
The birth of Jesus led to the cross. His life would go on to change world history and the eternal destiny of billions of people. This dramatic change would come at a huge cost. Christmas is a time of celebration for Christians. We rejoice knowing that our Saviour and King has come but it cost God the father the most—His only begotten Son. It cost Jesus the pleasures of heaven to come to a sin-filled earth to live as a man and God knew it would eventually cost Jesus his very life.
How do we respond to Christmas?
The Christmas season is a time of joy and celebration! Take the time to celebrate with family and friends, but remember there was a price to pay for the joy of that new-born Babe who would take away the sins of the world. If you are feeling lonely or discouraged at this season, be encouraged. God knows your pain but, like Mary and Joseph, if you are willing to continue in the path He leads you, He will turn your pain into joy. Turn your eyes to Jesus and use Christmas as a time to minister to others and watch what God will do!
If you do not know Jesus as Lord and Saviour, will you pay the cost of Christmas to experience the new life of Christ in you? The benefits of giving your life to Christ will always outweigh the cost!
As my dear friend, Pastor Kenneth Bombay recently wrote to me, “May we focus on the angels song instead of Jingle Bells. May our minds ponder the manger more than the money we are about to spend. May the tinsel and turkey be an incidental to the Word made flesh.”