Every year about this time the newspapers report what merchants are forecasting how retail sales might be during the Christmas season, whether it will be a time of brisk business or a slow period for sellers. I read recently that the average person spends about $850 for Christmas presents. Some spend much more than that and others who are poor or without jobs spend on average about $250. A lot of money changes hands at this time of the year, or, as one cynic predicted: “Ho, Ho, Ho, means owe, owe, owe.”
As I thought about this, it dawned on me that Christmas itself is costly from the standpoint of its true meaning. Christmas is not supposed to be a holiday devoted to extravagance, foolishness, and revelry. It is the birthday of Christ. Nevertheless, a high price was involved for us to even have a Christmas to enjoy with our family and friends.
It was costly for Mary and Joseph. The scorn and ridicule associated with a child born out of wedlock in that era was much more traumatic compared to today’s permissive society. The couple had to endure a long period of exile without the comforts of home to live in Egypt and protect the baby from a savage king. And what about all those mothers in and around Bethlehem whose babies suffered death by the cruelty of Herod?
It cost the shepherds time and involvement with their flocks in order to visit the Christ child and to publish the Good News both far and near. It’s hard to imagine how long they were gone. The wise men paid the price of a long, rough journey, perhaps a year or more to see the baby Jesus. Then they opened up their treasures and presented costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Christmas cost the early apostles and church persecution and sometimes death. Tradition says that all the apostles, except John, died horrible deaths for their faith. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs records hundreds of documented cases of Christians who paid with their lives. When I read the inspiring stories of pioneer missionaries who had to brave untold suffering and privation in order to spread the Gospel to others, I see a high price involved. It’s not easy to leave the comforts of home and family and go to a poorer country to live the rest of your life. That is sacrifice, and it costs!
More than all this, it cost God the Father His only begotten Son. He sent Jesus to earth to save humankind from their sins. The gift of God to us this Christmas is eternal life, and here’s the cost: “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (I Peter 1:18-19 NLT).
Christmas cost Jesus a life of sacrifice and service. It cost Him the misunderstanding and unbelief of people everywhere. But the suffering, the agony, and the shame of Calvary weighed heavily on His shoulders, and the cost?
“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5NLT)
All of the expense involved in our gift giving, we often say, is worth it because of the joy we receive in giving to others. The cost was tremendous for God to offer the free gift of eternal life through His Son, but He did it out of His great love for us.
Beloved, if you have trusted Him and received this costly gift of eternal life, there will be a price to pay. You are no longer on your own, but bought with a price. You can’t work your way into Heaven, but it will cost you time, money, and effort to serve the Lord. There is a price to pay, but it is worth it because of the rich, eternal dividends that it pays in the life to come. Do yourself a favor. Take time to think about the cost of having Christmas as you celebrate this special time of the year with your family and loved ones. Then thank God that Jesus paid it all!