A Quick Way to Gain a Deeper Understanding of the Christmas Story

It was if I had never read the Christmas story before.

There on the page of a child's book, the story was totally foreign to me.

That frigid night my son and I sat by the window sill—the cold air bleeding through the panes, doling out goosebumps. With son on my knee, we read through the entire Christmas story culled from all three of the synoptic gospel accounts.

Maybe it was the simplicity of the book or the setting in which we read, but something about those words struck me that night.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Matthew 2:13

You’ve probably read this verse before. I know I had.

And while it might seem like a side note to the story of Christ, it actually holds the key to why Jesus came to earth.

Let me explain.

Should We Buy Things on the Sabbath?

The Fourth Commandment's prohibition against work most assuredly includes commerce.

Selling goods and services for profit is an activity aimed at making money, and Nehemiah warned against this very thing:

I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. Nehemiah 13:15

In the book of Nehemiah, Israel began rededicating itself to God after exile, and Nehemiah knew the importance of keeping the Sabbath holy. Tempted as the people might have been to make some extra money, he told them to avoid selling food.

Photo Credit: Steve Snodgrass (Creative Commons)

But selling is just one half of commerce. What about buying? I buy things on the Sabbath almost every week. Is that prohibited?

How to Observe the Sabbath and Stop Worrying About Money

I dare you to tell me that the Fourth Commandment—the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath”—has nothing to do with money (Exo. 20:8).

True, you will not find the word “money” anywhere in the passage. But to ignore its financial overtones would be a grave error.

You Might Be Asking the Wrong Question When it Comes to the Sabbath

We know that the Fourth Commandment prohibits working on the Sabbath:

On it you shall not do any work . . . Exodus 20:10b

But what exactly is work?

If I work in my yard or clean house or cook a meal, is that work? What if I go hiking or jogging?

I have news for you.

We might be asking the wrong questions. Rather than asking, “What is work?” maybe we should ask, “Why am I working?”