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.