Pearls are not the status symbol they used to be. Today you can buy a three strand pearl necklace for $1,000.00 at Tiffany’s
For most of human history, pearls were the ultimate luxury item worn only by royalty. The Roman General, Vitellus, is said to have bankrolled his military campaign with his mother’s pearl earrings. Around the world, pearls were a sign of opulence and power.
Until the advent of cultured pearls at the turn of the twentieth century, pearls were extremely rare. Just one in 10,000 oysters produced a natural pearl. Pearl diving was dangerous and only added to the gem’s allure.
In the early twentieth century, a fine pearl necklace could be swapped for a Manhattan mansion. Today it can be swapped for the price of one month’s rent.
By the 1950’s, the average middle-class housewife could have a strand of cultured pearls to call her own. They were highly fashionable—a sign of elegance, innocence, and femininity.
When I was seventeen, I decided that I had to have a strand of pearls all my own. Don’t ask me why. Those creamy, satiny, glowing orbs fascinated me, and there was such a need in my teen-age heart for something beautiful. So, I had the audacity to ask for pearls for Christmas. I didn’t want anything else. I just wanted pearls, and not the dime store kind. I wanted real pearls from the jewelry store.
I knew my request was unreasonable. I knew we didn’t have money for such frivolous things, but I asked anyway. I look back now and realize that my Mom did not scold me for my unreasonable request. Rather, she looked past all that and into the heart of her girl, who was on the verge of adulthood. She saw a need—a longing.
On Christmas morning, I opened the lovely box, and a there they were, a modest strand—no more than 5mm in size, and certainly not costing thousands of dollars. I was thrilled at the sight of those creamy, glowing jewels with the pretty filigree clasp. I caressed them, ran them through my fingers, and fastened them around my neck.
To this day, I do not know what sacrifice my Mother made in order to give me the desire of my heart. I do not know what the pearls cost. They must have been paid for on a lay-away plan or on monthly installments. Mama was clever knowing how to eke a lot out of a little. That was her Christmas Sacrifice.
For years, I wore those pearls to church on Sundays and for other special occasions, and then, gradually, I laid them aside and did not wear them at all.
In February 2013, at the age of seventy-seven, I married for the first time. What would I wear with my beautiful ivory gown? I went looking for my pearls, the ones Mama gave me sixty years ago. They were perfect. As I waited, with my brother, to walk down the aisle that day, I could imagine my Mother, looking over heaven’s balcony rejoicing because I was no longer alone.
I remembered her Christmas sacrifice for me, and I said, “Look, Mama, I’m wearing your pearls.
Today, I am remembering another Christmas sacrifice—the one God made when He sent His beloved Son, Jesus, the first and most wonderful Christmas gift, to this world.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Think of the sacrifice Jesus made, when He traded the glories of heaven for nine months of oblivion in the womb of a teen-age Galilean girl, when He laid aside his omnipresence and surrendered Himself to the limits of time and space, and when He put off His kingly robes and gave Himself to the mockery and cruelty of men. Think of how He subjected Himself to the weight of our sin dying in our place. Now that is the ultimate Christmas sacrifice!
I love Christmas. I’ve told you that. I love the hustle and bustle, the buying and wrapping and baking, and the parties and programs. I keep reminding myself that this is Jesus’ birthday. I don’t want to forget the reason for our celebrations. But, honestly, sometimes He gets lost in the shuffle. So, some years ago, I made a decision to consciously and sacrificially give a birthday gift to Jesus every year.
This is different from my local giving. I give an offering to some mission’s project. This year I sent my offering to “The Reindeer People of Russia,” a nomadic people in the frozen north, who are finally hearing the gospel. They are receiving for the first time God’s wondrous Christmas gift.
Don’t let the trappings of Christmas bury this gift of all gifts. Look around you. Find someone in need, and give a sacrificial gift, in the name of Jesus.
Remember, regardless of where you live and what is going on in your life—THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW