Most of us have various visions of Christmas. Some are good and some… not so much. When we think of family, friends, parties, laughter and gifts, we smile. Choosing gifts for each person, staying within a budget, dealing with long lines, extra heavy traffic, and the keeping up with the Joneses mentality, these all equal a huge upside down smile, for sure. Ask any Christian, and most Americans, what they think of as a Christmas symbol and they will answer, the manger scene, the Christmas tree, Santa Claus, and stockings.

Thinking of the messages I have heard over the years about Christmas, "the gift" resonates throughout my memories. It seems that is what pastors tend to focus on. And it was a gift... but what type? Have you ever truly thought it through?  

I think of the LOVE that was poured out. The HUMILITY displayed. Most think of the cross when you say SACRIFICE. But, think of the sacrifices made to create that first Christmas… the birth of our precious Savior.   God poured out His LOVE for us by becoming a human. He is Creator and King of the Universe for goodness sake. Yet, He chose, in supreme HUMILITY, to become as one of His created. 

Love: to have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for (another person)
Humility: the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion of one's own importance, rank, etc.; to lower in condition, importance, or dignity
Sacrifice: to surrender or give up

Yes, He was sinless, but that does not lessen what He did. He chose to live in a sinful world and walk daily, as we do, being tempted, being surrounded by wicked things. He left His throne to rescue His kingdom. He LOVES us too much to SACRIFICE us to our own sinful ways. He didn't give up on us. WOW!  

Think of it this way, though it is not nearly the same, at all. How would you like to give up all that you have, your children, your home, all of your possessions, yes, even your favorite cherished things, your rights to make decisions in this part of your life, all to become one of a lesser species… say one of the insects, animals or ocean kingdom? Could you choose to become one of those, whom you are not? Mind blowing Sacrifice!

What about Joseph and Mary? They were engaged to be married and still pure. Mary becomes pregnant with Jesus, our Savior. I can hear "what an honor" ringing in my memory. That is what most say when they think of this event. And it was a tremendous honor!!! But, what of the LOVE for their God and each other? What of the SACRIFICE?  

I am no historian, and I don't claim to know what this would have meant in their culture and times, though I have been told the punishment was stoning.  However, I do know that even today it would mean the stigma of being an unwed mother, gossip, wedding plans totally awry, tremendous relationship strain, the list could go on and on.   

What must have been going through Joseph's mind? What faith had he to continue to believe the Angel he'd seen in his dreams was real? Did he suffer shame from his peers? How difficult was it? We don't know, but I am fairly sure there was SACRIFICE.  

Oh, and surely the delivery of Jesus was a cake walk, too!  How many pregnant women in their ninth month don't want to take a 2-3 hour car ride? Mary was on a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. This was an 80 mile, week long journey by donkey...OW! Just saying... Sacrifice.

Our greatest gift ever, is Jesus, our savior. Our gift was made possible through tremendous LOVE, SACRIFICE, and HUMILITY. Those of being born, living as a human among us and ultimately, His unfathomable sacrifice on the cross. This gift is unimaginable LOVE. The HUMILITY shown by putting us first...as more important than himself. The SACRIFICES made to accomplish the goal.   

This Christmas is coming quickly. You may choose to celebrate with gifts as usual, out of tradition. But I challenge you to also celebrate with a grateful heart, a heart of LOVE, HUMILITY, one willing to sacrifice. It doesn't necessarily have to cost a lot of money or be something big. Maybe, to you, it means being outside of your comfort zone or giving up a favorite item to someone who needs it more. Maybe you are shy and to be a greeter every Sunday at church for a month would be an act of love, humility & sacrifice. I don't know what it means to you. Pray about it. Ask God how you can say thank you, how can you show LOVE, HUMILITY, and SACRIFICE in honor of His most precious LOVE.

I wish for you a truly very Merry Christmas!

PS: Remember.... this is just a symbol of remembrance and honor. Your works can't get you to heaven, only a relationship with the one true Jesus can do that. He just asks you to accept His gift of salvation...take it… your life will never be the same.

Kathy Bryan is a speaker, trainer, mentor, survivor leader, and currently serves as Program Director and speaker team member for RBI.