The following is from Reuters, reporting on holiday retail sales over Black Friday weekend:
Cash was king for consumers who shopped over the Thanksgiving weekend... and that factor could have cost retailers additional sales. Only 26 percent of people who shopped over the weekend said they used credit cards for their purchases... A total of 39 percent said they used cash, while the remaining shoppers used debit cards, the survey showed. Consumers shunning credit cards is a bad sign for retailers, since people who buy gifts with a credit card tend to spend anywhere from 20 to 40 percent more on the gift.
What is bad news for retailers according to Reuters- consumers buying more with cash and less on credit - is good news, I would say, for consumers. After all, by spending only the money they actually have in the bank, consumers save themselves monstrous interest charges and mountains of debt which can land some in the poor house.
Although I am quite happy to see more consumers spending responsibly, I am also thankful that the message of Christmas is about a man who gladly and knowingly spent everything he had with reckless abandon and landed himself in the poor house for our sakes. Our reading for Christmas Eve from Titus 3 explains thusly:
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior. (verses 4-6)
When Jesus appeared in history as a baby in a manger, he poured out his Spirit through Christ not minimally, but generously. The Greek word for "generously" is plousios, meaning "richly." In other words, God "broke the bank," as it were, when he gave us Jesus.
And indeed he did. God gave everything he had - even the life of his one and only Son - so that our salvation could be purchased and secured. God sent Jesus to the poor house so that we could be rich in eternal treasures. As the apostle Paul elsewhere says, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).
One of my favorite Christmas carols is "What Child Is This?" I especially appreciate the second verse:
Why lies he in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.
Nail, 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!
These lyrics capture well the poor house, or "mean estate," in which Jesus lie. And the "ox and ass" were only the beginning of Jesus' poverty. As the carol so appropriately reminds us, Jesus would lose everything, even his life, when nails and a spear pierced him through.
This Christmas Eve, I hope that you are financially stable. If you are not, I pray God's guidance and help for you, that you would enter into a better fiscal season. But whether you are financially secure or shaky, tonight, give thanks for the One who spent everything he had for our salvation. He came to the poor house so that we, whether we are rich or poor in money, would always be rich in salvation. Praise be to God.