Christmas and the Humility of God
Maybe I shouldn’t admit this publicly, but I’ve had my Christmas Tree up since October… don’t judge me. Our family loves the festivity and joy that surrounds the Christmas season. For many Aussies, Christmas is a busy time full of end-of-year celebrations, presents, barbecues and bellyaches. Although I get my fair share of bellyaches over Christmas, as a Christian, the central reason for the season is Christ. In fact, many Christians have begun observing advent in order to slow down and reflect on Jesus’ arrival (if you don’t know what ‘advent’ is, read Stephen’s article from two weeks ago [link]). So, with that in mind, why don’t we take this opportunity on December 1st to do that together?
What do you think about when you think of Jesus’ arrival all those years ago? Do you think of a manger? Or perhaps the three wise men? Or maybe you think of words like ‘Holy infant so tender and mild’? Out of the Gospels, perhaps the most exalted account of Jesus’ arrival comes from John’s Gospel. John explains Jesus’ arrival like this, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Wow. Jesus’ birth, and indeed his whole life and death and so on, was nothing less than God taking on flesh and displaying his glory!
And yet, some people don’t see this as amazing. I’ve had unbelieving friends puzzle over how this could be possible with me. People have said things to me like, “Really?! You’re saying that God was a helpless little infant who became totally dependent on a mother and needed nappy changes and all the rest of it?!” I admit that it does sound a little ridiculous. Surely, if there is a God, this would be beneath Him, right? But you see, that’s exactly the point. God has communicated something to us by taking on human flesh in what theologians call the ‘incarnation’. God has communicated the profound humility in His heart. Jesus only spoke once of his heart in all the Gospels, and when he did he said, “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29).
Have you reflected on the humility of God in Jesus’ 1st advent? Have you treasured the fact that God was willing to humble himself to depths most human beings would consider beneath them, for you! The Son of God chose the path of humility, even shame and suffering, to pay for your sin and my sin (Isaiah 53:5-6). God, the Son, “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8)! In the birth of Christ there is a baffling union of humble humanity and divine glory! Let’s enjoy and savour what Jesus did for us, and who our wonderful God is this Christmas season. Let me leave you with some words from a Carol that express the glorious humility of God so well:
Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of the Virgin’s womb:
veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail the incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing