Christmas Thoughts – The Cost of Christmas (Part 1) 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.”
The “Commercialization of Christmas” seems to be the biggest objection to participating in the Christmas Holiday. Keep in mind that the word “Holiday” has its roots from two words – Holy Day. Nonetheless, those who choose to remove themselves from the celebration of Christ’s Birth often use the complaint that is too “commercial” and it lends a form or credence to their added conviction that it is a pagan holiday. It is no small wonder that Christmas provokes a great conflict; for, the First Christmas shook the world!
Do you 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? I think it is fitting that there be some “cost” to celebrating Christmas since the First Christmas involved a huge amount of “cost!”
Mary “paid” a high price for celebrating “Christmas!” Being a young woman in Jerusalem was not easy in Mary’s day. The Romans dominated the Jews and were at best dictatorial in their actions, and at worst, diabolical. The Jewish society was patriarchal and very dismissive towards females. In fact, Mary’s betrothal to Joseph had been arranged by her father. Mary had little choice in determining her destiny.
One day, God manifested His Presence to Mary through His Angel, Gabriel…
Luke 1:26-29 (KJV) “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be” (Emphasis Mine).
Mary was “troubled,” which meant she was greatly alarmed and concerned for her safety. For all Mary knew, this “man” might well be a Roman who had come to violate her. IF this were the case, she knew she would not be able to bring charges against him; for, who would believe she had not “invited” his advances.
Gabriel was not offended at her response, as he had been with Zacharias’s response (Luke 1:19-20). He quickly comforted Mary, Luke 1:30 (KJV) “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.”
Mary had very little time to consider that she had “found favor with God,” before Gabriel presented God’s choice, challenge, and cost for this “favor…”
Luke 1:31-33 (KJV) “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Emphasis Mine).
Mary was immediately thrown into a “world of wonderment” with Gabriel’s announcement! You see, when we read these Scriptures, we have the tendency to read them quickly, or in one breath, if reading aloud. However, these Scriptures present what took place in this “visit” from Gabriel. There would have been pauses between many of the sentences, or verses.
Gabriel responded to Mary’s worried expression with “fear not!” Mary did not respond immediately to Gabriel’s challenge, although Scripture presents it as though she did. Mary would most probably have looked around in a thoughtful manner after hearing Gabriel’s declaration of God’s “choice, challenge, and cost” for His favor. After an unreported time of contemplation, Mary responded with, Luke 1:34 (KJV) “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”
Okay, let’s think this through. Mary was already betrothed to Joseph and she was waiting for the announcement of when the marriage would take place. (Remember, in the Jewish custom, the Bridegroom’s father determined the date of the marriage.) She had accepted Joseph as her future husband, and it is reasonable to believe she had been thinking of the probability of becoming a mother. Therefore, to “conceive” a son during the marriage would not only be a great blessing, but she would be praying for such! However, Mary understood that Gabriel was saying, “Mary, you are a highly chosen vessel of God, and TODAY, you will become pregnant!”
There was no “natural” way that Mary was going to get pregnant on the day that Gabriel visited! Mary was a virgin, and she intended to maintain her virginity until AFTER the marriage ceremony with Joseph. BUT, Gabriel announced she was just one “step-of-faith” from being pregnant. Mary’s searching question was meant to both challenge Gabriel and clarify what “spirit” she was dealing with.
I don’t know if Mary was prepared emotionally to receive Gabriel’s response; BUT, I know Scripture presents she was prepared spiritually. Gabriel’s response was phenomenal, Luke 1:35 (KJV) “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Emphasis Mine).
After Gabriel’s response, Mary was no longer bewildered about being an impossible pregnancy, she was challenged with the reality that she was a “step-of-faith” away from being the Mother of God’s Son!
Once again, let’s think this through! When this encounter with Gabriel transpired, it is believed that Mary was at most 16 years of age. She was evidently devout in her devotion to God; for, she had maintained her chastity, AND God had protected her from being sexually violated by the Romans. Now, the Angel of God had announced that God highly favored her – so much so, that she had been chosen to be the “Woman,” through whom the “Seed of Woman” would be born. Few of us have the depth of appreciation for how wonderful this miracle was, or is!
The same Holy Spirit that “brooded” over the waters in Genesis 1:2 was about to “overshadow” Mary’s virginal womb and impregnate her with the “Son of God!” This was fantastic! Mary rendered an exemplary response of faith, Luke 1:38 (KJV) “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.”
Gabriel’s announcement was NOT a commandment! Mary had a choice to make – accept or reject God’s will. Her acceptance of God’s will cost Mary very much. Because she would become the “First Christmas Participant,” she would no longer be able to present to her “husband,” Joseph, the “tokens of virginity” that was so important to a devoted Jewish woman. While she maintained her virginity, she would remain such until the “Son of God” was born. After His birth, there would be no “evidence” of her virginity. It would have to be accepted by faith on her husband’s part.
Without God’s intervention, no one would believe her “fantastic” story; therefore, it cost Mary her “Reputation with Men,” but she gained the “Respect with God!” Mary paid a high “Cost” for “Celebrating Christmas.” Yes, there is always a “Cost” for celebrating Christmas!