Wednesday, December 06, 2006
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What if you had no reputation?
Philippians 2:5-9 NASU
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
This passage may not usually be associated with Christmas, but for some reason that is how it comes to me this season. Look closely at the passage above, then read the quote from The Jesus Style by Gayle D. Erwin below.
“Christ Jesus . . . made himself nothing.
“He made himself nothing, he emptied himself—the great kenosis. He made himself no reputation, no image.
“I can recall my father shaking his head and repeating over and over to himself, ‘If only I knew what this meant. There is something powerful here. If I only understood it.’ Maybe that is why this Scripture has glued itself to my mind and equally disturbs me. Reputation is so important to me. I want to be seen with the right people, remembered in the right light, advertised with my name spelled right, live in the right neighborhood, drive the right kind of car, wear the right kind of clothing. But Jesus made himself of no reputation.”
Christmas in America means lots of things to lots of people. For some it becomes a political event that pits “the true meaning of Christmas” against the bias of some against religion. For others Christmas is just another time to visit dysfunctional families and to pretend to get along with each other. For others Christmas is a season that involves incredible profits (or expenses) and lots of activities. For still others Christmas is simply a winter break, a time to regroup for a new year.
I know I’ve left a big group out! There are those who see Christmas as the celebration of the birth of the world’s Savior.
But I want to twist the prism a bit and look at Christmas from a different angle. Almost all of the views above look at Christmas from the perspective of what humans gain from the season. I wonder if we can look at the season as something we can offer to others, a gift of sorts.
This passage from Philippians reminds me that Christmas for Jesus wasn’t about what he would gain. In fact, he lost just about everything! He left the comfort of his Father’s place, he became a tottering, dribbling little baby, he had to learn to talk, to walk, to eat, he left his riches behind for the poverty of a manger, and ultimately he would even become sin, something he had never experienced. As Paul says, he made himself of no reputation.
Imagine what Christmas would be like this year if those of us who follow Jesus would do as Paul admonishes here and have this approach to the season. What would Christmas look like if we didn’t care about what we got out of it?
Ronald Reagan is credited with the saying “There is no telling what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
We don’t like that approach though, do we? We kick against it! I mean, we deserve to be recognized, don’t we?
You came up with the idea that made the company money, shouldn’t you be rewarded? Maybe you found a problem and fixed it, and that fix saved someone’s job. Shouldn’t you be shown gratitude? Maybe you did some kindness for someone you knew couldn’t pay you back, shouldn’t you get credit for that?
Don’t we all think that we should be center stage, center of the world, the most important person in the world?
How many times have you heard “I quit going to that church because MY needs weren’t being met”?
Let that sink in.
No fame, no credit, no automatic acceptance, no celebrities, and no place where who you know or what you know earns you admittance.
Jesus made himself of no reputation.
We love our awards, the acceptance of others, the glamour of being “somebody,” or the wonderful happiness of fame, don’t we?
“Don’t neglect me” is the motto of many in our society and our churches.
The motto of Christ and his followers is “No reputation.”
God chooses such people to further his agenda. Will we be involved or do we like our perks too much?
What can you do this Christmas season that will bless others and garnish no reputation for you?
Will we do it?
Thanks for reading!
Friday, December 01, 2006
My Annual Christmas Post
Here is a little meditation I wrote about 3 years ago that sums up for me what is the "Mystery of Christmas." I hope you enjoy this rerun!
A little over 2000 years ago, a tiny child was born in the bleakest of conditions. Oh, he wasn’t the only one born in a bad state. In fact, in some ways, he was one of the lucky ones. He and his mother actually survived childbirth and thrived. Still, this story is unique and amazing on several levels.
First, this child would literally change the way time is reckoned in the world. His life and abilities would so impress generations of others that a brand new movement would be created, one that would radically change the very face of the earth (sometimes for good, sometimes for bad). His name would become recognized among the names of the greatest of humans, yet he never forgot his humble beginnings or lost a sense of who he was.
The second thing about this child is tied to the first in that this baby, this helpless lad full of spittle and mush, was born as the very Son of God. When Mary held his little head to her breast, he drank human milk. Yet, he was (and is) the God of the universe. Can you picture this simply ridiculous, yet somehow poetic scene? God, who calls the stars by name, pressed to the human breast for sustenance. Humble, yet almighty, is how most folks would no doubt recall this child.
A little over 2000 years ago, God proposed that the only remedy for the human condition of sin would be if he humbled himself, stepped out of eternity and into human flesh, and suckled at Mary’s breast in preparation for the greatest, most impressive conversion of all. God, in Mary’s arms, toddling around Joseph’s shop, learning to talk, learning to walk, tasting and touching things with human hands. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 139, “such knowledge is too wonderful for us, we cannot contain it.”
God knew that the only way to redeem us was if he did it himself. Haven’t you ever had that thought? You know, the one where you say, “If I want something done right, I’ll just have to do it myself?” Imagine God having that thought about bringing us back to proper relationship with him. Imagine again that the only way he knew he could do that is if he came to earth as a baby. Think of it—how vulnerable the almighty God was at that moment, how paradoxical that the God of all creation had to learn to walk! And why did he put himself in this situation? Out of his inexpressible love for each of us he acted in this manner.
He became insane that we may be sane. He became flesh so that we might walk in the Spirit. He became sin that we might be righteous. He became poor so that we might be rich. He became a toddling, dribbling, helpless babe so that we could become mature humans in the image of almighty God. What wondrous love! What humility and service! How then can anything he asks of us be too difficult?
Lord, in this Christmas season, remind me of your sacrifice and love so that I might be a light shining in darkness to others. May the grace of God and the peace of Christ rule in my family and my life.
Thanks for reading!