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22 December 2017

Counting the cost at Christmas

Counting the cost at Christmas

What will you be doing on this extra-special Sunday, Christmas Eve?

Maybe you'll be throwing open the front door to welcome family? Maybe you'll be piling onto a train or joining the queues on the motorway as you travel to your Christmas destination? Maybe you'll be spending the day carolling at church?

There's one thing though that we can all be sure we won't be doing, and that's shopping for toys at The Entertainer.

It was reported this week that the business, owned by Christian Gary Grant, will be sticking to its normal weekly pattern of keeping shops closed on a Sunday. This Sunday, however, is anything but normal: it's estimated that the closure will cost the business around £2 million.

Gary Grant is already known in the business as a Christian who walks the talk; he keeps all his 149 shops closed every Sunday, ensuring his 1,700 staff have the day off. Family and taking time to rest is more important than business. 

We all know that as Christians there will be occasions when we'll count the cost of our faith, sticking to the truth of what we believe even when there's a price to pay. This year, Gary Grant is counting a literal cost.

We don't always think of Christmas as a cost-counting season (except in relation to our bank balances) but actually it's the celebration of the ultimate costly moment. 

Philippians 2:5-8 says:

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!"

If Jesus can give up equality with God because he loves us, surely there's nothing we can't give up because we love him? This is what Gary Grant knows – that the £2 million closure of his business this Sunday is a miniscule cost to count in the light of the cost Jesus counted when he entered our world. His courageous humility reminds us of some of the great evangelical business leaders before him whose commitment to biblical principles led to social change.

So what might counting the cost look like to you this Christmas? It probably won't be as expensive as Gary Grant's, but it might be quite painful. Humility and obedience are tricky things – especially in the hyped-up, emotionally high stakes week that is the festive season. 

For you maybe it will be keeping quiet when the robust family "discussions" take a turn for the worst, recognising that having the last word might not be the kindest thing to do. Maybe you'll need to smile and make the best of a tense trip to the in-laws, honouring your spouse and their family over yourself. Maybe you'll need to be gracious when everyone's forgotten that you're a veggie – again.

These might seem like little, even foolish, things when we think about the cost our brothers and sisters in less free places around the world are counting for their faith. And frankly, they are. But being counting the cost in your choices this week – choosing humility over self-promotion, obedience over self-service – will point all those around you to the ultimate sacrifice found in Jesus.

So when you take a quiet moment – even if that is literally a moment – to reflect on the reason for the season, remember that costly act of humility. When you look at Christmas card pictures of the glowing baby Jesus remember that in that tiny child is the fullness of God, who did not count his status as God to be too great to surrender in order to meet us in our gloom, our despair and desperation.

If Jesus – God – can count that cost, what cost can you count this Christmas?