The Sacrifice of Christmas

“Good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10)

For most of us here in America, Christmas is a season associated with great joy and happiness, a time to enjoy the comforts of home and family. But have you ever thought how different the very first Christmas was? For Joseph and Mary, that Christmas included some experiences that were not joyous or comfortable.

For them Christmas was about sacrifice, and sacrifice they did. They sacrificed socially. This is one of the reasons the young couple were so troubled by the angel’s announcement that Mary was with child miraculously. Betrothal was a serious social observance, much more serious than our custom of engagement before marriage. The culture, and most of the laws of the ancient world, would require a husband to publicly repudiate his wife through divorce if she was found to be with child during the betrothal period. Only then could he retain his honor and recover the “bride price” he had paid to the family when the betrothal was contracted. To marry her would be to admit promiscuity and would validate all the circulating rumors.

They would sacrifice physically. The discomforts of a long and arduous journey on the back of an animal, in the last days before delivery, are difficult to exaggerate. The aged prophet predicted that many years later, Mary would experience intense pangs of grief as she beheld the sufferings of her son (Luke 2:35).

They would also sacrifice spiritually. Instead of living a quiet, peaceful village life, what God was asking Joseph and Mary to do would place them at center stage in the greatest drama of human history.

All of this is what makes their responses so amazing. Mary responded, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to Your Word” (Luke 1:38). Joseph, “. . .did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He took his wife” (Matt. 1:24). Craig Keener wrote, “Through the willing sacrifice of these exemplary human servants, God brought salvation to the world.”

God is still calling His servants, people like you and me, to sacrifice in ways large and small so that others might hear the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Let’s enjoy all the joys that Christmas brings to us. And when God leads us to sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel, let’s do so with joy – knowing that through people like us, God is saving the world.

About Sam Harbin
I am the President of Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA as well as the Chair and Professor of Pastoral Theology.

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