The Joy of a Christmas Bargain

Pastor Ian points us to the best Christmas bargain we will ever find, and encourages us to respond with joyful worship and heartfelt gratitude.

When I was still in primary school I had an unusual affection for bubble gum. It was a weekly pleasure for me. Every week I would take what was left of my allowance (after my parents separated out my tithes and offerings), go down to the corner store and buy my weekly package of gloriously pink, wonderfully delicious bubble gum. In every package there was a big, powdery stick of gum, and four baseball cards. Every week I arrived home enthusiastically chewing my gum and would toss the baseball cards into a shoebox. I loved bubble gum, but I knew nothing and cared little about American baseball.

baseball-cardsUntil, that is, I happened to mention to my friend John Sharon that I had an entire shoebox full of baseball cards. The very next day my foolish friend gave me five dollars for something I didn’t even care about! It is impossible to describe the joy I felt!! Five dollars was just two weeks short of an entire year of allowance! I felt that I had made the best bargain ever! Even today, the thought that John Sharon may have waited 20 years and then sold those cards for $500 in no way diminishes the joy I still feel—and the suspicion—that I was somehow clever enough to scam John Sharon into exchanging real money for worthless baseball cards.

On this third Sunday of Advent, many churches around the world will remember the coming of Jesus Christ by lighting the Advent Candle that represents Joy. In doing so we are reminded that when Christ comes into our world, He brings a fullness of joy. This joy is a God-given resolve that is not dependent on seasons or situations. It is a settled recognition that we have found ourselves in the middle of the story the Lord is writing in His world. It is a story that pierces the deepest darkness with the light of hope. But though this joy is free, it did not come cheaply. Not only was it purchased by the obedience of the servant King, but incredibly He offers it to us not for nothing, but in exchange for something none of us has ever wanted.

In Isaiah 61 there is a Christmas announcement to “all who mourn”. In verse 3, the prophet audaciously declares that for the sake of God’s own glory, He is willing to exchange something we would never desire, for something we could never purchase, specifically: our ashes for a crown of beauty, our mourning for joyous blessing, and our despair for festive praise. What an extraordinary, joyful Christmas bargain! This is no doubt why, on the night Jesus was born, the angels lit up the night sky with joyful celebration: His coming was good news of great joy for all people.

My prayer for each of us is that on this third Sunday of Advent, we will gather in joyful worship of the One who willingly exchanges the ashes of our mourning for a joyful, unmerited crown of blessing!

I pray that in this Advent Season we would reflect deep Christmas gratitude that He brings us that which we cannot purchase: a wonderful, settled sense that He is directing our history to His glorious conclusion.

If you’d like to read ahead to prepare for our message this Sunday, I encourage you to expose your heart to Isaiah 52:13-53:12. I look forward to being together this Sunday as we celebrate the joy of a true Christmas bargain!