Maybe I need Alexa to help me be a better writer. Perhaps I should send this to the students in my Theological Research and Writing course.
Each year I check out the Christmas Price Index published by PNC Wealth Management. They detail what it would cost to give the gifts listed in the song, “12 Days of Christmas.” This year, the gifts would cost $38,993.59 as single gifts, and $170,298.03 as the song indicates with multiple gifts each day. You will pay 0.2% more than last year.
But what if Christmas cost more than money? What if your choice of gift cost you your reputation, standing in the community, business prospects, and hope for career advancement? What if your choice of Christmas gift left you the subject of rumor and innuendo?
Imagine that you take in an alcoholic relative and the rest of your family thinks you’re foolish to give them another chance. Perhaps you decide to sponsor a Syrian refugee in your home and your neighbors don’t want anything to do with you because they think you are friendly with terrorists. Possibly a group starts to boycott your business establishment because you set up a Nativity scene in your lobby. Maybe you bring a pregnant teenager into your home and the rumors start to fly that you are the one who got her pregnant.
What if Christmas cost you your reputation, standing in the community, business prospects, and hope for career advancement, and left you the subject of rumor and innuendo? That is what it cost Joseph to celebrate the first Christmas (Matthew 1:18-25).
Matthew 1:18-19 explains that Joseph was a righteous man. As a businessman aspires to be a C.E.O., as an athlete aspires to be an all-star, so a Jewish boy aspires to be a righteous man. It meant he demonstrated an uncompromising obedience to the Torah, the Old Testament law.
Joseph had the reputation for being a righteous man. But he also had a very big problem. His fiancé was 3-4 months pregnant, and he had no idea who the father was. Since they both lived in a small town, people would naturally assume he couldn’t keep his pants on. Before too long, the rumors would start flying.
As a righteous man devoted to the Torah, Joseph had no choice but to divorce Mary. The only question was how—publicly or privately. If he did it publicly, it could result in her being stoned for her seeming infidelity (Deuteronomy 22:20-21). If he did it privately, it would break his heart but save Mary some of the embarrassment. All he knew for certain was that if the wedding took place, he would lose his reputation, standing in the community, and any hope of business prospects. All Joseph would be left with were rumors and whispers.
At this point, an angel appeared to Joseph to calm his fears (1:20-23). Mary had not been unfaithful to him. Rather, God was performing a great miracle by fulfilling the promise of Isaiah 7:14 through Mary. God himself was coming to earth. He was sending the Messiah to save the world from its sins.
Being the righteous man he was, Joseph wasted no time in obeying God’s instructions (1:24-25). He immediately took Mary as his wife and named the new baby, Jesus. Joseph chose commitment to God over the opinions of other people. Righteousness was more important than reputation.
The story of Joseph reveals the high cost of Christmas. Embracing Christmas may cost everything we hold dear. Like Joseph, we should be willing to sacrifice our status, careers, possessions, convenience, reputation, and freedoms for Jesus.
This year, strive to be like Joseph. Cultivate a trusting heart that takes God at his word. Cultivate a sacrificial heart that is willing to forsake everything to follow Jesus. Cultivate a committed heart that chooses obedience over convenience.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on December 8, 2019. It is part of a series of expository sermons on Advent. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
Here is a video teaser for the message I will be preaching on Sunday at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. We will examine Matthew 1:18-25 and consider “The High Cost of Christmas–The Story of Joseph.” Please join us.
I found the following in my files. I’m not sure if I wrote it or found it in a source that I’ve long forgotten.
In Matthew 1:20-21, the angel tells Joseph that his fiancé, Mary, will have a son with a divine origin. “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Savior is Jesus’ special office. He saves people from the guilt of sin, by washing them in his own atoning blood. Jesus saves us from the penalty of sin, by forgiving our sins. He saves people from the dominion of sin, by putting in their hearts the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us. Jesus saves us from the presence of sin, when he takes us out of this world to rest in him. He will save us from all the consequences of sin, when he gives us a glorious body at the last day.
Jesus saves us from sin for evermore. This is salvation.
Book Review: Behind Gold Doors-Five Legends Offer the Keys to Empowering Leadership, by Lonnie Pacelli
How do you become a more effective leader? Who can you turn to for answer? Are there mentors who can help you understand your weaknesses and help you to strengthen them? These are the questions that lie behind Lonnie Pacelli’s latest book, Behind Gold Doors-Five Legends Offer the Keys to Empowering Leadership.
The author has written a business parable, along the line of books authored by Patrick Lencioni. It is the story of Sam, who has recently been promoted to the level of manager in his company. During his annual performance review, he fully expects to be fired since he peers and reports have all painted him in a negative light. Instead, his boss gives him a gold card and sends him to leadership development class. During his time in the class, he meets Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Susan B. Anthony. Each historical figure shares insights on how to develop and empower the leaders under you.
The book is well written and the characters seem believable. You get a sense of their personalities not only in what they say, but how they say it. The book is informative and encouraging.
I received a Kindle edition of this book for free from the author in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.