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  • Writer's pictureWayne Shelton

The Cost of Christmas

Philippians 2:5-11 (v8)

This Advent we have been looking at Philippians 2:5-11, sometimes called the “Carmen Christi,” the “hymn to Christ.” It’s an ancient hymn that the apostle Paul quotes and includes in his letter to the Philippians as an apt summary of the life and work of the Lord Jesus. We’ve been working through the Carmen Christi to help us as we think about the significance of Jesus coming that first Christmas.

We began on the first Sunday of Advent in verse 5 as we thought about “The Call of Christmas.” Verse 5 is a summons, a call to a different mindset, a different outlook and attitude in light of who Jesus is and why He came. And then in verse 6, we thought about “The Plan for Christmas.” Paul takes us back into eternity and helps us reflect on the voluntary condescension of Christ, the divine Son who embraces the mission the Father gives to Him and comes for us and for our salvation. And then last week in verse 7 we thought about “The Heart of Christmas” where Paul reflects on the self-humbling of Christ who, being the eternal Son of God, became man; more than that He became a slave. He came all the way down into our humanity and was born of the virgin and laid in a manger.

This Lord’s Day, we are at verse 8 where we’ll think together about “The Cost of Christmas.” Verse 8 takes us from the manger all the way to the cross. Now that may seem to be an unusual move on the Sunday before Christmas to be talking about the thirty-three year old Jesus hanging on a Roman gibbet on Golgotha instead of talking about the infant Christ nursing in Mary’s arms, laid in a manger in Bethlehem. But it could not be more important for us to understand that - while the nativity scene is, no doubt, more picturesque, more romantic, more ‘Christmassy’ – the nativity really makes no sense, none, apart from the cross.

“Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?” That’s the question. Why is He there? Why did God become a man in Jesus Christ? What’s going on? “Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian fear, for sinners here, the silent word is pleading. Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you. Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the babe, the son of Mary.” Apart from Calvary, Bethlehem can’t help us.

In the eleventh century, the bishop of Canterbury in England, a man called Anselm, wrote a book, now famous, around an imagined dialogue with a character rather unfortunately named Boso, in which Anselm asks his famous question, “Cur Deus Homo?”“Why the God-man?”

Why did God become a man? Boso could not understand it. What possible need could there be that would necessitate this kind of divine intervention that the God of the universe should be joined to humanity in Jesus Christ? Why? What in the world would demand that God should become a man?

As Boso expresses his incredulity, his unbelief, Anselm replies simply, “You have not yet considered the heavy weight of sin.” If you understood sin, then you’d understand why God went to such extreme, such lengths to secure our deliverance. The crushing burden of sin required not just that God become man in Jesus Christ, but that as both God and man, He make full satisfaction for our sin by His obedience and blood. Nothing less could secure our salvation. That’s why Jesus was born. That’s why God became man. That’s why He lay in such mean estate.

If you only have the baby of Bethlehem and not the man of Calvary, you may have a pretty Christmas scene for your greeting card but that is all you have. You cannot have peace with God. The cross is the reason for the cradle. Christmas would be an empty celebration without Calvary. And Philippians 2:8, our text this morning, is making that point with some force.

We look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday as Chad proclaims, ‘The Cost of Christmas.’ Make your plans to join us Christmas morning as worship Jesus who will save his people from their sins (see Matt. 1:21). Remember, there will be no Sunday School on Christmas morning, but we will join together at 10:00 am for our morning worship.

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Wayne


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