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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Cost of Christmas

“. . . but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” – Philippians 2:7


Christmas is the most expensive holiday of the year. Statistics vary a bit, but The American Research Group [1] notes that over the last ten years (including this year’s projections) Americans have spent on average per person:

  • 2014 - $861 (predicted)
  • 2013 - $801
  • 2012 - $854
  • 2011 - $646
  • 2010 - $658
  • 2009 - $417
  • 2008 - $431
  • 2007 - $859
  • 2006 - $907
  • 2005 - $942
  • 2004 - $1,004
  • 2003 - $976

In a 2012 online article entitled How Much Do Americans Spend Over Christmas? It was estimated that in 2012 parents spent an average of $271 per child for Christmas. [2] In the same article in response to the question “How People Fund Their Holiday Shopping Spree” it stated: 65.8% will use salary or other income; 38% will use all or some of their savings; 29% will cash in coupons or rewards points; and 17% will borrow from another source.

In a 2011 Business Insider article by Andrew Shen entitled INFOGRAPHIC: Americans are Spending a Whopping $704.18 On Gifts This Year [3] it states Christmas is the “biggest commercial holiday in the United States. The United States is surpassed in Christmas spending by only one country, Luxembourg. Most people begin holiday spending before Thanksgiving; 38.9 % begin before Halloween; 51.4% of Americans begin Christmas shopping at least by mid- November. 152 million Americans planned to shop on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving. More and more retailers are opening their doors on Thanksgiving. 4.1% of people wait until the last two weeks before Christmas to shop.

Mr. Shen goes on to give the following further statistics in his article:

  • Worldwide $2.6 billion is spent on wrapping paper for Christmas
  • 1,220,000 letters from 126 countries are sent
  • The world’s most expensive Christmas tree is in the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It is 43 feet tall and cost over $11 million to decorate. ($10,000 for the tree. $11.5 million for the jewels that ornament it.)
  • Individual spending for Christmas in America averages $704.18 per person
    • $403.26 spent on children
    • $68.23 spent on friends
    • $21.06 spent on co-workers
    • $23.39 spent on other gifts
  • 46.7% of shoppers shop online
  • Online shoppers will spend 22% more than in store shoppers
  • An average person will spend $26.52 on greeting cards
  • An average person will spend $96.75 on food and candy
  • An average person will spend $18.23 on flowers
  • An average person will spend $46.73 on decorations
  • An average person will spend $42.00 on a Christmas tree
  • In 2011 $52 billion was spent on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving)
  • 6% of shoppers say the most important factor in choosing where to shop is customer service. 14.6% say it is the quality of the merchandize. 41.6% say the most important factor in choosing where to shop is the cost of what they are looking to buy.

That’s a lot of spending no matter how you cut it!

The article also points out that 86% of adults say they believed in Santa Claus as a child. The average age for someone to learn that Santa isn’t real is 8 years old. 15% of children believe Santa is real past age 10. That’s sad because our focus shouldn’t be on Santa, it should be on the Savior Jesus. (Is it really a good idea as parents to deceive your children and distract them from the true meaning of Christmas? If you teach them a mythological figure like Santa is real now, when it comes time to teach them the truth of Jesus, why would they believe you if you’ve already brought into question your credibility as truth bearers?)

I don’t want to be Scrooge-like but there’s so much more to Christmas than money, Santa and his elves, and gifts. This holy day has been hijacked and converted into a secular holiday. I’ve got nothing against giving gifts. I’m a generous person and love to give gifts. Every good and perfect gift ultimately comes from God (James 1:17). But our gift giving shouldn’t cost Jesus His holy birthday.

Which brings me to the point of this teaching, have we truly considered the cost of Christmas for Jesus?   It cost Jesus a lot to redeem us. I wonder if there were times when He pondered just how much it did cost Him to provide a means of redemption for humanity. Let’s look at a few portions of scripture that may give us some insight into the cost of Christmas for Jesus.

It Cost Him His Home - He Left His Heavenly Abode

On one occasion when Jesus was in one of His many combative discussions with the Pharisees He said this:

  • John 8:23 - And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

I read that and I wondered if Jesus was a little homesick. He left His heavenly home to save us. He left heaven to save us. That’s quite a step down: from the penthouse to the outhouse; from eternal place of privilege to temporal place of impurity; from cleanliness to filth; from limitlessness to the depth of limitations. He left His heavenly abode and reached down to lift us out of the miry clay, the muddy grimy goo of this fallen world.

What’s heaven like? Well it isn’t a boring place. When we enter heaven one day we won’t be sitting on a cloud strumming a harp in eternal ethereal dullness. Heaven is a place with the best of everything with no end in sight. Heaven exceeds our limited imaginations. If we look at just one city, “The New Jerusalem” we can catch a glimpse of what Jesus left when He left His heavenly abode.

Revelation 21 speaks of “the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:2). Just look at this chapter and as you see the revelation of Jesus about this heavenly city imagine not only the city itself, but the environment Jesus left.

Revelation 21

     Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

What God will do at the culmination of history will be new for us, but not for Him.

2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

This will be a special day, like a wedding day. The City will be adorned like a bride; everything will be polished and new (not that there is any dust or dirt accumulation in heaven). The idea is that this is a special preparation for a special time.

3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

The first thing we see about heaven from this passage is that heaven is a place filled with the eternal presence of God. When Jesus came to dwell with us bottom feeders beneath, He submitted Himself to limited access to the Father as a Human Being. He had access but it was willfully limited as a Human. He is a picture of what relationship we can have with the Father now. But He is also a picture of hope for the greater eternal relationship and access we can have with God in heaven.

 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Heaven is a place with no sorrow, no regret, no pain, no DEATH. Imagine, we will never again have to face death; either for others, or ourselves. Jesus tasted death for us – “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). Jesus left the place of eternal life to taste death and He did it so that we would have victory over death (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-58).

5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

Heaven is a place of perpetual newness; nothing grows old there; nothing wears out; nothing becomes outdated or stuffy.

Heaven is a place that is the epitome of God’s truth and faithfulness. Everywhere you look you see the faithfulness and truth of God; you see how God is faithful to fulfill His true word.

Jesus left that to die for us.

6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

Heaven is a place of eternal sharing. Heaven is a place where all the beginnings and endings climax. And it is a place we shall inherit one day.

8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Heaven is a place WHERE THERE IS NO SIN! You will not find anything in heaven that causes pain or suffering. You will only find that which flows from the love of the Spirit. All sin will be eternally removed. THERE IS NO ONE IN HEAVEN WHO HAS DISREGARDED GOD’S WORD AND PERSISTED IN THEIR SIN.

9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12

Heaven is a place where everything carries with it a sense of the glory of God. Heaven is a “precious” place.

Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.

Heaven is a MAGNIFICENT PLACE. We will spend a good part of eternity in TOTAL AWE of God’s abode; Jesus’ abode; Jesus hometown and Holy City.

14 Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. 17 Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. 18 The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

Notice, what are rare precious jewels on earth below, are COMMON yet still precious in heaven.

In The Word for Today study Bible Pastor Chuck Smith comments: “The New Jerusalem is about 2.25 million square miles total. It is a 1,500 mile cube, as its ‘length, breadth, and height are equal.’ Now if you think of it as a skyscraper 1,500 miles height and 1,500 miles square, then you will get the feel for how bit it will be. Even if each floor is a half-mile high, the total surface area would be bigger than the landmass of the entire earth. And who needs half-mile ceilings? There will be plenty of room for you.”

Jesus left this incredible City, to be born in a stable, to sweat and toil, experience fatigue, toil, and work. Jesus left all this for you and for me.

22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.

Heaven is a place filled with the glory of God and WITH THE GLORIOUS LIGHT OF THE LAMB Jesus. Jesus left that for you and for me to shine His light into our darkness.

Heaven is a place of access and safety; there’s no crime there; there are no threats or dangers in heaven – “its gates shall not be shut.” Think about that. Jesus left that to live in perpetual danger.  


27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

The reason there are no dangers or threats there, the reason for the complete and total eternal safety, is that “there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”

Jesus left all this for you and for me. Will you join Him there one day?

Now that is only one part of heaven. Multiply that by eternal immensity and the creativity of God and you only start to begin to understand what Christmas cost Jesus.

It Cost Him His Position – He Left His Throne

There’s another New Testament passage that is not regularly considered a Christmas message. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he is inspired to write:

Philippians 2:5-11 - 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Christmas cost Jesus. It cost Him equality with God (2:6). At the point of the incarnation when the time had come for Jesus to come to live amongst humanity it states Jesus was (and is) emphatically “equal with God” (Phil. 2:6). Think about that. Equal with God; “equal” (Greek isŏs) in every way with God. He was Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Eternal, and Creator, full of glory – equal with God in all of that. You can’t get higher or greater than that. But then there is a “but,” He laid it all down.

Christmas cost Jesus. It cost Him His “reputation” (2:7). As God He had the highest and holiest, the greatest and most perfect reputation in the universe “but made Himself of no reputation.” Your reputation is who you are. People spend a lifetime building a reputation. Jesus spent an eternity building His reputation. And yet He laid it all aside. He came to earth and started all over. He came to earth willfully choosing to make Himself of “no reputation.” He left all His gigantic credibility and resources. He left His position of authority. He left His throne, the angels that worshipped Him in glory, the heavenly existence of perfection, and He came to fallen earth to live with fallen humanity. Christmas cost Jesus.

Christmas cost Jesus. It cost Him work (2:7). Jesus didn’t come as privileged royalty or a political elite, He came as a “bondservant, . . . in the likeness of men.” We glance over this but this was no small sacrifice. I have heard a Bible teacher illustrate this as God looking down on an earth populated by vicious dogs like Dobermans and pit-bulls and then becoming a Chihuahua to live among them and show them and die for them.  However you picture it, Jesus left an existence where He could simply effortlessly speak His will into existence. He left that to take on the likeness of a fallen human body; one that sweats and smells and gets’ tired and hurts and experiences pain. He came as a “bondservant,” to work out the ordained plan of redemption.

Christmas cost Jesus. It cost Him humility (2:8). It was humbling to leave a throne in heaven and become a man. There’s really nothing on this earth that could accurately illustrate such a cost. Not even a classic story like The Prince and the Pauper where a young king switches places with a pauper identical twin to see what living like the poor would be. Just look at the growls and elbows, the scowls and blank stares of shoppers at Christmas time – Jesus came to live amongst those kinds of people. And when you shop until you drop and your feet are blistered and swollen and your arms feel stretched to the floor from carrying bags of gifts, just remember, Jesus humbly came from a place where He encountered nothing that could tax Him to a body that regularly wore out.

And Jesus did this obediently. He submitted Himself to the will of the Father, even “to the point of death, even death on the cross.” He obeyed His Father in every way and on all occasions. He sacrificed, went without, served, kept His silence. He voiced God’s word and did all that the Father by the Spirit directed Him to do, even when it cost Him His life. He humbly obeyed even when it cost Him a death of being nailed to a hard sharp cross alongside common criminals and crucified in public for all to see. He obeyed even when on that cross His enemies mocked Him. He obeyed even when those He was dying for mocked Him and turned their backs on Him. There is no greater humility. Christmas cost Jesus.

For all this God exalted Jesus (2:9-11). For all this God exalted Jesus to the highest and holiest place. Everyone will one day “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” That’s the meaning and purpose of Christmas.

In light of the cost of Christmas for Jesus and His exaltation, have we truly considered the cost of Christmas for ourselves? The above passage about Jesus begins with the words, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Christmas will and should cost us. I’m not talking about running up your credit cards. I’m talking about what it means to live our Christmas with the mind of Christ.

After Paul speaks of the cost of Christmas for Jesus he continues and spells out practically what this means for us. He helps his readers to consider the cost of Christmas to those who follow Jesus by saying:

Philippians 2:12-18 - 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. 17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.

Christmas costs us. It costs us reverent obedience (2:12). Paul links his words with the word “therefore.” In other words, in light of the cost of Christmas to Jesus we should respond in the following way. The first thing Paul indicates is a proper response is obedience. The Philippians were beloved by Paul. They were trustworthy. Paul didn’t have to be there overseeing them, prodding them to obey every step of the way. No, they obeyed and “worked out” their “own salvation with fear and trembling. They lived in light of eternity. They lived in light of Jesus incredible cost of Christmas. They lived in holy reverent, even trembling, before the magnificence of what Jesus had done. They took the initiative and “worked out their own salvation,” they put Paul’s words into practice. That was the cost of Christmas for them.

Christmas costs us. It costs us faithful submission to God (2:13). Paul told the Philippians that their obedience and work wasn’t anything for them to brag about. Whatever they did was a result of God working in and through them “to will and do for His good pleasure.” They simply had to trust God to work in and through them. They simply had to submit to God’s doing for His good pleasure in and through them. It cost them their rights. It cost them self. It cost them.

Christmas costs us. It costs us being a light (2:14-16). Christmas costs us our complaining and disputing. It requires we surrender to the will of God. It requires we hold to a higher priority than mere unfair circumstances or injustices. The priority is to be blameless and harmless unlike those in this “crooked and perverse generation” who complain and dispute as a way of life. No, we are to live “among” the lost and dark world in a way that “you shine as lights in the world.” We are to be lights in darkness. That doesn’t just mean putting up some pretty ornaments outside our homes or on our windows or on a green evergreen tree (or artificial facsimiles thereof). It means we reflect Jesus and live with the light of His mindset of sacrifice, humility and obedience. It means we live, “holding fast the word of life,” and doing it joyfully and in a way that ministers like Paul who serve will be able to “rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”

Christmas costs us. It costs us our life (2:17-18). Paul was being poured out like a drink offering when he wrote this letter. He was being spent. He was giving up his life in a way that he wouldn’t be able to get it back. He gave himself to God by serving the Philippians. We serve God by serving others. You can only do that when you have truly committed your life to Christ. Christmas costs you your life!

Christmas is expensive.

But in the end all of this, what Christmas cost Jesus and what it costs us should result in joy. “For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.” Rejoice in the cost of Christmas! Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain, He washed me white as snow.” And we pay our cost of Christmas to our Lord joyfully. When you truly consider the cost of Christmas it will inspire you to count the cost and live your life as a sacrifice of loving appreciation to the one who gave His all for us. The cost of Christmas? Jesus died for all that those who live through Him should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for us (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14-16). Have you truly considered the cost of Christmas?

One last question: What do we have to do to spend eternity with Jesus in His heavenly abode? Let’s return to that first verse we considered and read on a bit:

John 8:23-24 - 23 And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

If we don’t want to die eternally in our sins, we need to turn (repent) to Jesus and trust Him and Him alone as our Savior/Redeemer. Do that and your name will be in the Book of Life. It’s all a gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus. The greatest cost. The greatest gift.


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