Since my October editorial (“Signs of Hope”), I have received a number of emails, letters, and even a homemade card from readers encouraging me and expressing their appreciation of my work. I am most thankful to all of you. You have lifted my spirits. Through you, God has reminded me that there are many gracious Christ-followers among us.
As Christmas draws near, we are reminded again of God’s amazing love for us. The second person of the Trinity becoming flesh in baby Jesus was not only miraculous—a sign of God’s power—but also astonishing—a sign of God’s humility. It would be analogous to us becoming ants. God did this, willingly, in order to rescue us, driven by his gracious love.
In Philippians 2:6-7, the apostle Paul describes Christ’s incarnation this way: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Instead of our culture’s prideful tendency to entitlement, Jesus willingly let go of his divine privileges.
The original Greek word translated here as “servant” is actually the word for “slave.” Jesus willingly, intentionally, went from divinity to slavery. He humbled himself from being the divine Master to being a mortal slave. And, as an obedient slave, he was obedient to death, even a humiliating and excruciating death on a cross that was reserved for the worst criminals (v. 8).
The apostle Paul wrote that our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus (v. 5) who humbled himself. Paul wrote this to the Philippian church, which was facing some discord and disunity (Phil. 4:2). Jesus was the ultimate role model for Paul’s exhortation to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). If Jesus, who had every right as God to be entitled and to have honor over others, chose to let go of that for the sake of others, how much more should we, as Christ’s followers?
This is a hard teaching for us. In our North American culture, where individualism, self-centeredness, competitive pride, and entitlement attitudes rule, this posture of humility, obedience, self-giving, and self-relinquishing privileges is not only counter-cultural—it is hard. We would be seen as weak and foolish.
But the path our Lord Jesus calls us to follow is not an easy path. It certainly does not align with the consumer mindset of today’s spirituality. However, God will not ignore our obedience. As God exalted Christ from his humiliation, God can raise us up along with Christ (Phil. 2:9-11).
But this is not a call to do more, work harder, strive more as if it is all about our will power and our obedience. That would lead to righteousness by good works.
It starts with “heart work.” God will draw close to a humble and contrite heart or spirit (Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15). Let us be thankful to Christ for his undeserving grace toward us. Let us set our hearts on Christ, filling our hearts with more of him and less of us. And out of our Christ-filled hearts will flow his love and grace to others. I pray that this would be true for us this Christmas.