Usually when we use the word sacrifice in regards to Christmas it has to do with Jesus. He sacrificed His position in Heaven to come to earth. He eventually sacrificed His life for us. This is the great sacrifice of Christmas. But there is another........
Hidden in the Christmas story is a little noticed account of sacrifice that sets a tone for all of us today. It has to do with Joseph, the husband of Mary. He was going to divorce her for infidelity before their wedding, and then the angel intercedes and confirms what she told him. After the dream, here is what happened:
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. Matthew 1:24,25
Notice verse 25. For the sake of the birth of the Messiah, he did not push his marital rights during the whole time Mary was carrying Jesus. He treated the whole process as holy. For the sake of holiness and/or the potential of interfering with the pregnancy, Joseph sacrificed. Obviously he had strong desires that he anticipated would be fulfilled. Obviously he loved Mary deeply and wanted to share oneness with her. But for the sake of Jesus, he sacrificed.
Someone has said that Jesus was God's gift to us and what we do for Him is our gift back to Jesus. Joseph's actions raise the question for us, what are we sacrificing or willing to sacrifice for Jesus' sake? We are told to follow Him, and the road He walks is absolute obedience in love for the Father. It is a road of personal sacrifice. He became "obedient to death, even death on a cross." We often want our faith walk to be comfortable, painless, successful and positive.
The reality is that following Jesus will require us to sacrifice things we have strong desires for. But those things are nothing. Here is what the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:18:
What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.
The good news is that God will give us grace and honor every sacrifice. Joseph and Mary were very fruitful after Jesus was born. Jesus had a number of step brothers and sisters. And because of Joseph's sacrifice Christ was born undefiled so He could be the great sacrifice for us.