Millions and millions of dollars will be spent in the United States during this year's Christmas shopping season. One financial consultant said that the shopping sprees indulged during the one month leading up to Christmas will require many to struggle the following 12 months of the year to pay for.
And while merchants may do 25 to 30 percent of their annual sales during the month of December, Christians around the world will utilize the Christmas season for missionary service and to preach and teach about Christ. Plays, concerts, caroling, skits, and a host of other activities will provide Christian believers both vehicles and opportunities to explain the mission of "Mary's baby boy."
Have you ever wondered what the original Christmas cost? Seventh-day Adventists know that Jesus was not born on December 25. "Seventh-day Adventists have ignored Christmas as a church festival because of the absence of any divine command to observe the day. Furthermore, Christ's birth date is unknown, and December 25 was chosen by the Roman churches late in the fourth century, to coincide with the 'birthday of the sun, the pagan solstice festival. On the other hand, we have utilized the spirit of the Christmas season to direct people to the biblical teachings concerning Christ's birth and have encouraged the giving of liberal offerings to missionary purposes" (Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia,vol. 10, p.351).
However, Christmas presents a grand opportunity to reflect on the first advent of Christ. The older I get, and the longer I'm a Christian, the more I want to hear songs and sermons about Jesus. Recently I read the following observations by an unknown author regarding Christ's first advent called "The Cost of Christ":
"It cost Mary and Joseph the comforts of home during a long period of exile in Egypt to protect the little babe.
"It cost mothers in and around Bethlehem the massacre of their babies by the cruel order of Herod.
"It cost the shepherds the complacency of their shepherd's life, with the call to the manger to tell the good news.
"It cost the wise men a long journey, expensive gifts, and changed lives. "It cost the early apostles and the early church persecution and sometimes death.
"It cost missionaries of Christ untold suffering and privation to spread the good news.
"It cost Christian martyrs in all ages their lives for Christ's sake.
"More than all this, it cost God the Father His own Son—He sent Him to the earth to save men.
"It cost Jesus a life of sacrifice and service, a death cruel and unmatched in history."
The center and circumference of the gospel that Christmas only hints at is the truth that Jesus Christ, by being born human, undertook an unbelievable exchange. He exchanged His righteousness for our unrighteousness. He exchanged His robust faith for our enfeebled faith. He exchanged His flawless obedience for our fitful obedience. Ellen White expressed the wonderful truth of Jesus' vicarious ministry in the timeless words: "Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death that was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. 'With his stripes we are healed' " (The Desire of Ages, p. 25).
Hanging on the wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is a portrait with the following inscription: "James Butler Bonham —no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom."
During this Christmas season, let's pray that men and women can say, "We have never seen Jesus, but we know some people [you and me] who we think resemble Him."