Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Cost of Christmas

Christmas is becoming extremely costly especially if you take literally the folklore of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." I ran across a newspaper article listing the song’s itemized costs and wondered how our outlays for the incarnation holiday (holiday actually means "holy day") got so out of hand.

The article’s author took as a benchmark the "Twelve Days of Christmas" and, pricing each gift, made a comparison between the 2008 and 2009 shopping costs for the dozen items "my true love gave to me."

This exercise is obviously a total secularization of Christmas since the daily items have nothing to do with Christ except by accepting questionable tradition or simply promoting wild stretches of the imagination.

The traditional view is that the twelve days of Christmas are December 25 through January 5 leading to Epiphany on January 6, which celebrates the arrival of the wise men. It is observed by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Some believe that the gift items are analogies of God’s serialized love for believers or even veiled encouragement for the faithful in times of persecution.

But back to the high cost of financial fantasy for Christmas in 2009. As Bill wrote in the previous blog, Dan Hephin reveals the full bill for the gifts of the twelve days of Christmas is $87,403, up less than one percent over 2008.

Lost in the pricing is the real cost of Christmas to the original participants. I wrote about this last year, but it’s worth repeating.

First, Joseph had to struggle with marrying an expectant wife without the baby being his child. Maintaining celibacy until she delivered was a costly exercise in self restraint.

Mary gave up a community-accepted pregnancy, probably attended by incredulous sneers. She would live her remaining years in the shadow of shame and expecting her Christ child’s Cross. Mary twice traveled the 70-mile journey south, first to meet Elizabeth and then with Joseph to Bethlehem. To avoid a murderous Herod, the family would flee at night for the arduous round trip to Egypt.

Earlier, Zecharias’ part as John’s father cost him his ability to speak for nine months.
Faithful Messiah-watchers Anna and Simeon voluntarily paid the price by regular Temple visits and were rewarded with seeing their long-awaited Savior.

Shepherds left their midnight vigils over their flocks in the fields to make an impromptu visit to a humble cow stall and then shared the news with what were likely incredulous hearers.

Wise men traveled as long as two years for their brief gift-giving visit, and then found their lives jeopardized by a raging jealous King Herod.

Countless children under the age of two and their bereaved mothers would pay with life and grief as Herod’s soldiers rampaged through the area. Years ago, I visited a grave crypt near the Church of the Nativity where piles of infant skulls were interred. Our guide said they could have come from that distant infant slaughter.

Spiritual stress was borne by the nativity characters as demonic forces collided with angelic throngs over Bethlehem, a warfare obliquely seen in Revelation 12:4 which says, "…and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born."

All these costs, grim as they were, pale in comparison with God the beneficent Father and His given Son, who volunteered for the harsh journey from Heaven to earth. John 3:16 has it, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." When the Second person of the Trinity left Heaven for earth, it was a forgone conclusion that He would die and shed His precious blood, a priceless act providing access to redemption for all men.

Christmas cost God His Son and it cost His Son His life—all to give us the gift of eternal life (Romans 3:23, Ephesians 2:8 and Titus 2:14).

Accepting God’s gift is the ultimate immediate thanks. Living for Christ out of gratitude dignifies His gift on a continuing basis. Let’s all think about the cost of the gift this Christmas, receive it if we haven’t and live for Him if we have.

Dave Virkler

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