The 2017 versions of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us. According to one source, Black Friday grossed about $5 billion in sales, with Cyber Monday doing even better at $6.2 billion in online sales. The total gross sales for this coming Christmas season has been projected to be over $680 billion!
But is that the TRUE cost of Christmas? Last week we looked at the cost of and the hidden meaning behind the Christmas gifts described in the popular Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. But is THAT the true cost of Christmas?
The prophet Isaiah, some 700 years before the first Christmas Day, had something to say about the true cost of Christmas, and his message was anything but “Merry”. His message did include a “gift”, but it was a gift with a promise. Do you know what that promise was? That the gift, perfect as it may be, was going to get dinged up.
When I was a kid, I remember one Christmas, my father drove home in a brand spanking new car, a 1964 Buick Wildcat. It was not a great sports car, but rather a nice four-door family car – but it was new, and without a ding on it at all. Being a new driver, I begged my father for the right of passage to drive it somewhere by myself.
He consented to send me on an errand to one of the stores uptown, and I was not in that store for more than ten minutes when I returned to the car to find a ding in the rear door on the driver’s side of the car! A fellow had backed into the car as he was pulling out of his own parking space next to mine! The car was not 24 hours in our possession and it already had a ding in it.
The gift Isaiah speaks of is much like that – a gift with a ding in it. And yet, that gift was priceless. Yes, it is the gift of Jesus Christ. Listen to what Isaiah has to say:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)
The Apostle John in his Gospel, says it even clearer:
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
The gift was perfect; but in its perfection, it was dinged up on Calvary.
Author Henri Nouwen tells the story of a family he knew in Paraguay. The father, a doctor, spoke out against the military regime there and its human rights abuses. Local police took their revenge on him by arresting his teenage son and torturing him to death. Enraged townsfolk wanted to turn the boy’s funeral into a huge protest march, but the doctor chose another means of protest.
At the funeral, the father displayed his son’s body as he had found it in the jail—naked, scarred from electric shocks and cigarette burns, and beatings. All the villagers filed past the corpse, which lay not in a coffin but on the blood-soaked mattress from the prison. It was the strongest protest imaginable, for it put injustice on grotesque display.
Isn’t that what God did at Calvary? … The cross that held Jesus’ body, naked and marked with scars, exposed all the violence and injustice of this world. At once, the cross revealed what kind of world we have and what kind of God we have: a world of gross unfairness, a God of sacrificial love.
Why would God do that? Why He send His only Son to get dinged up in a violent and sinful world simply to demonstrate his sacrificial love? He did that so that you and I could experience the beauty, the glory, and the hope of heaven for all eternity.
My friends, there are two ways the Bible says you can get to heaven. Plan A is to earn it. That’s the performance plan. And to earn it you only have to do this: never sin and always do what’s right for the entire time that you live. Just be perfect.
Since none of us qualify for Plan A, God came up with Plan B, which is this: You trust Jesus Christ when he says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” He was the only perfect person who ever lived, because he was God. He came so we could know what God is like. He paid the true cost of Christmas! And by trusting and establishing a relationship with him, you get in on his goodness.
One fellow took his young son to a carnival one time for his birthday. His son picked six boys to go with him, so Dad bought a roll of tickets. Every line he’d come up to, he’d pull off seven tickets and give them to all the kids. When they got to the Ferris wheel, all of a sudden there was this eighth little kid with his hand out. Dad said, “Who are you?” The kid said, “I’m Johnny.” Dad said, “Who are you, Johnny?” Johnny said, “I’m your son’s new friend. And he said you would give me a ticket.” Do you think Dad gave him one? Absolutely.
The true cost of Christmas was ugly and unfair and all dinged up; but in the words of that major credit card advertisement, it was also “priceless”. But God paid that price for you and for me. And all we have to do to get in on His goodness is to “know the Son.”
Do you know Him?
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and the News Journal. He is also a former Pastor of Port William UMC, Port William.