Christmas Thoughts – The Cost of Christmas (Part 2) by Pastor Carl W. Mann, II
Luke 2:1-7 (KJV) “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Yes, there is always a “Cost” for celebrating Christmas. Last week, we discussed some of the cost that Mary was willing to bear. She was not the only one that bore a “cost” in the “First Christmas.” Joseph paid a high cost also.
As stated last week, we should find it interesting that the First Christmas took place amid a “Commercial” event wherein folks were gathering in their “own city” to pay their taxes. Because Joseph was “of the house and lineage of David,” Joseph and Mary were required to travel to Bethlehem to pay his taxes and register in the census books.
This was no small task…
The route most probably chosen to Bethlehem “would have taken them southeast across the Jezreel Valley, connecting with the Jordan Valley, then level or slightly down in elevation all the way to Jericho, then up through the Judaean Desert to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. It is about ninety-two miles long. Normal walking pace, even with a camel or donkey, is three miles per hour. So, a traveler can usually walk between seventeen and twenty-four miles each day. At that rate, the journey would have taken Joseph and Mary at least four to five days.” –D. Kelly Ogden, The Road to Bethlehem
Just think! When Joseph travelled to celebrate the “First Christmas,” it took him and Mary between four and five days to arrive for the “Celebration!” I often hear individuals complain because they are going to have to travel a few hours to celebrate Christmas with their family.
The time it took for Joseph to travel to Bethlehem, and back, was time that he was not able to work to earn funds to provide for his “family.” However, while this presented a great “cost” to Joseph, he “paid a high price” before the costs of the “Trip to Bethlehem.”
Keep in mind that this was NOT the “family” he had planned for when his marriage with Mary was arranged. I’m sure Joseph had dreams of starting his “own” family with his betrothed. The LAST thing he planned was to marry a “pregnant wife,” especially a wife whom he had NOT impregnated!
What did Joseph think as he peered into the dark brown eyes of his betrothed as she explained that she was still a virgin; nonetheless, she was pregnant with a “Miracle Baby?” As Joseph listened, while he did NOT believe the facts as Mary presented them, he could tell Mary was deeply convinced it was true. Therefore, he was presented with a delicate decision. He could break the engagement (divorce) with her either publicly or privately, OR he could stand with her and pretend that this baby was his. IF he chose to put her away, he would be touched with a certain amount of scandal. BUT, if he chose to stay with her, he would be complicit with the scandal and he would have to “man-up” regardless of what he believed.
We know that Joseph loved Mary deeply because he made up his mind to put her away privately. He would be identified with her scandal; but, he would spare her any unnecessary pain, embarrassment, or even death! What many do not realize is that in “putting her away privily,” he was making the choice to remain single. You see, if he did not make this “divorce” public, he would be ineligible to marry as a faithful Jew. Joseph did not believe Mary – BUT, He believed in Mary!
Now, let’s think this through. Mary tells Joseph that she is miraculously pregnant, AND that the Baby that is coming is the Son of God. Joseph decides to keep this confidential until he can sort this in his mind. Because he chose to “put her away privily,” it is understood that he did NOT discuss this with anyone. Do you realize how difficult this was for him to do?!
Okay, how many of us would have kept it quiet? Think about it! While Joseph was in his “unbelieving” state, it would have been very easy for him to run to his family, or to a close confidante, and say, “I did not realize I was engaged to a crazy woman!” AND, after the truth of Mary’s pregnancy was confirmed by the angel of the Lord (Matthew 1:20), it would have been tempting to run to same people and “brag” about what God was planning.
Joseph paid a high price that diminished any natural pride he possessed. He would come to understand the great price his “Adopted Son” would have to pay for being the Lamb of God. Just as surely as Joseph would not be able to go around bragging on Who his “Son” was, Jesus would not be able go around bragging that He was the “Son of God!” This is the delicious depth of Philippians 2:5-7.
Joseph accepted God’s challenge of being the “Son of God’s” godly mentor and “father figure.” Through Joseph’s example, Jesus would learn to appreciate and appropriate the “Spirit of Adoption,” that His Father would extend to all who would accept His “Christmas Gift” and believe upon Jesus for salvation.
Without God’s intervention, Joseph would not have believed Mary’s “fantastic” story; therefore, it cost Joseph the “Acceptance of Men,” but he gained the “Applause of God!” Joseph paid a high “Cost” for “Celebrating Christmas.” Yes, there is always a “Cost” for celebrating Christmas!