The Cost of Christmas

1 12 2007

What do you think about at Christmas?  I love thinking about the gifts I’ll be giving; shopping for Amy and Rylie, as well as the rest of my family, is a real joy for me.  I like spending the time trying to come up with some gift that will really excite them, something they might not be expecting but will really want.  (The first year Amy and I were married, I got so excited about the gifts I got for her that I made her open them early- two weeks early!)  So, between now and December 25th I’ll probably spend a bit of time dwelling on the perfect item to communicate to them how special they are to me.  However, if that is where my mind primarily dwells this December, it would be to my shame and their detriment.
Every year, I try to remind myself that there is something far more important than presents and purchases that cries out for my attention- there is the overwhelming price my Savior paid: the real cost of Christmas. 
Paul describes the cost this way: “Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Phi. 2:5b-7)
Take a moment and read through that text again (I’ll wait). 
Can we possibly fathom that cost?  The Almighty and Holy God Who had always existed in perfection and glory, stepped down and made Himself nothing.  The King James has the better translation here when it says He “made himself of no
reputation,” which is the real meaning of the phrase “He emptied Himself.” 
But what does Paul mean by this idea “of no reputation?”
Think about this: our glorious King Who had existed from all eternity as the center of the unceasing praise of heaven stepped into this fallen world and lived just like one of us; actually He lived far worse.  We modern Americans have more food than we can eat and more wealth than we even understand.  I’m sitting, typing this in my warm, cozy home.  I have a comfortable bed in which I will (eventually) rest tonight.  I have a fresh, clean set of clothes to put on in the morning (and a closet full of clothes to wear after I’ve worn those).  I have two cars and money in the bank (although not a lot).  Jesus had none of those things; He entered this world in poverty and died naked and alone.  
And how did this world He stepped into respond; how did they react to His great condescension?   “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:10-11)  Or to put it another way, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isaiah 53:3).  Or, in Paul’s words, He was “of no reputation.”
Sure, at the manger there were a few poor shepherds who responded in worship to the coming of the King of Glory (Luke 2:8-20; Psalm 24), but by the cross even the Father turned His face from Him (Matthew 27:45-46).  In between, He was reviled, rejected, hated, misunderstood, attacked, and mocked.  He knew hunger like most of us will never experience (Luke 4:2).  He felt the limits of the body (John 4:6) and understood the welling up of anger (Mark 3:5) and tears (Luke 19:41).  He was assaulted by the Enemy (Matthew 4:1-11) and faced anxiety like we will never know (Mark 14:34-36; Luke 22:41-44).  And He did this all willingly, giving up the bliss and glory of heaven. 
This is the staggering reality of the Incarnation.  It is an act of unfathomable condescension and reveals for us what real love truly looks like. It is something worthy of our serious contemplation, especially at this time of year.




2 responses

4 12 2007

A question for anyone reading –

Do you think Colossians 2:16-17 can have anything to do with Christmas? Just curious.

5 12 2007

Thanks for the question, Dave.
The context of these verses (of which 2:8 is the key) suggests that those who are acting “as your judge” are trying to evaluate the standing of others before God by their adherence to these religious regulations (most likely the OT ceremonial law). If Christmas becomes a tool by which we measure someone’s standing before God (as in you need Christ plus celebrating Christmas to be a true Christian), than yes, I do think those verses would apply.
However, much of what is said by Christians (as in “Jesus is the reason for the season!”) wouldn’t fall into this same category. Most Christians who encourage others to look past “the presents and the purchases” are doing so because they genuinely want others to focus upon our Savior. That was not the motivation of those Paul is writing against in Colossians 2.

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