Of all the missions’ trips I’ve been on over the years, I’ve been blessed to have served in a few locations multiple times; the country of Guatemala being one of them. Looking back I can sadly say that I do have a few regrets. Some might look at me and say, “Sean, you’re on mission for Jesus. What’s to regret about that?” But never the less, I do have a few and as is the case, one stands above them all from one of my trips to Guatemala.
After several days of fruitful work, we had the chance to travel around and browse through the markets. We found ourselves in Antigua and after a day of sightseeing and shopping, exhausted, we proceeded to the pickup spot to be transported back to our residence. It was during the walk back that I was approached by an older lady and her sibling trying to sell what looked like a table cloth. Truth be told I didn’t want to buy the item as I was done shopping, but this lady was persistent and would not leave my side so I threw out a price that would not budge on. It was a low-ball offer that I had hoped would lead to her giving up but as I said, she was persistent and four blocks later we still hadn’t agreed on a price.
Eventually getting to our transport she conceded and as I was about to cross the street to leave I purchased the item. I’ll never forget what she said as we made the exchange, “This, which was $10 American, wouldn’t be enough to feed her family.” Maybe it was the effects of another day in the sun or exhaustion from another day on my feet, but her comment never registered with me at the time. I remember, as I got in the van, feeling like I had won. That I had gotten the better of deal instead of them getting the better of me this time. It wasn’t long after I returned home that this feeling would evaporate and my perspective on value would be changed for the long term.
It was during the reading of scripture that I came across a section of text that took me right back to the coble stoned streets of Antigua. In Proverbs 20 v 14 it states:
“It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer– then goes off and boasts about the purchase.”
In the reading of this scripture I was taken back to purchase I had made and confronted with what I had done. Convincing the street lady that what she was offering was not worth the price she was asking, I had successfully decreased the perceived value of an item I knew was worth far more, just to get my way. Reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas, I can’t help but wonder if we in the faith are not doing the same.
It wasn’t that long ago it seems that Christ was the center of Christmas. Parades had the representation of most churches in the community; schools celebrated the birth of our Savior in play song and you could wish everyone a Merry Christmas without fear of offence. Today the message of “Keep Christ in Christmas” can be found on many a sign and bumper sticker as if to say He has been or is becoming lost in our cultural consciousness. In light of this devastating reality, and the fact that I too can get caught up in the consumption of the season, I have found myself looking at the Christmas story from a different perspective; one that I will share with you now.
In John 1 v 1 – 2 we read the following regarding Jesus and His place before coming to earth:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”
The above was further emphasized in 1 John 1 v 2 when it says:
“The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.”
In Jesus’s own words He states:
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me.”
At Christmas, we celebrate the gift of Christ and his entry into our world but in reading the scriptures above a different narrative comes to light; one of sacrifice.
In thinking of the sacrifice of Christ one often automatically looks to His crucifixion. One would not be incorrect in doing that but, to view the crucifixion as the only or main reference to sacrifice in the life of Christ would be incorrect. To believe that does nothing but to devalues the life of Christ. His sacrifice didn’t start at Calvary but started at home, in Heaven with his Father, where he was from the beginning. He willingly set aside the eternal to come into our world the same way we all do, to be a living sacrifice for us all. The Apostle Paul highlighted Christ’s purpose to the Romans of his day, as he does for us today, in Romans 5 v 8 when he says:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
It is this costly reality that has brought the perspective and the true joy as I reflect on Christmas and how we can keep Christ at its center. Anything else only seeks to cheapen the season and is the point I now refer to as I finish.
In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Christian theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer highlights a problem that plagued the church of his day, a problem I believe still plagues us today, that of CHEAP GRACE. He describes it as the, “justification of the sin without the justification of the sinner”; that “grace alone does everything so everything can remain as it was before. The is a huge problem that the Apostle Paul condemns in Romans 6 v 1 when he says:
“By no means! How can we who died to sin live in it any longer?”
I say, may this never be. Based on the cost, it will never be.
So, with that, if the buildup of another Christmas does nothing but rob you of peace and joy, may the true cost of the season, that of the complete sacrifice of our Savior, fill you back up this year and beyond. If we were never allowed to celebrate another Christmas again, you will always have reason for the season because of Jesus.
God Bless – Sean Bosse