A couple of
years ago I posted this little meditation on Christmas, and as I read
through it today I realized that I needed to hear it again. It is
easy in our society today to be a bit too full of ourselves, to think a
bit more highly of ourselves than we ought, . . . but I am quickly
coming to the conclusion that that is not the Spirit of Christmas, and
it certainly was NOT the Spirit of Christ. Bear with me, if you will,
while I contemplate what it means to have no reputation as a follower of
this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He
existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be
grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made
in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself
by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
passage may not usually be associated with Christmas, but for some reason that
is how it comes to me this year. Look closely at the passage above, then read
the quote from The Jesus Style by Gayle D. Erwin below.
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.”
in America means lots of things to lots of different people.
it becomes a political event that pits “the true meaning of Christmas” against
the bias against religion. For others Christmas is just another time to
visit 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. This year some may see Christmas as a bleak season filled with
bad news and the dread of a new year. For still others Christmas is
simply a winter break, a time to regroup for a new year.
I’ve left a large group out! There are those who see Christmas as the
celebration of the birth of the world’s Savior and as the Incarnation of God. I want to twist the prism a
bit and look at Christmas from a different angle.
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. I wonder, can we make a gift of Christmas?
Can we this year find a way to give the "spirit" of Christmas to
those around us?
out . . .
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 starkness of a
manger, and ultimately he would even become sin and even die for humanity. Remember, dead and sin were two things he had
never experienced before.
As Paul says, he made himself of no reputation.
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. Imagine if we
actually attempted to have the same attitude towards others that Jesus has
towards us! What would Christmas look like if we didn’t care about what we got
out of it but became more concerned about what we could give to others? How
would our world change if we laid down our lives . . . our reputations . . .
our desires in order to bless others this Christmas? What if we even went
further and did it anonymously, with no expectation of reward or recognition?
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?
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? You gave that money
to charity, shouldn't someone say "thank you"? You gave of your time
to that charitable organization, shouldn't there be some "benefit" in
it for you?
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”?
no credit, no automatic acceptance, no celebrities, and no place where who you
know or what you know earns you admittance or recognition. That requires true humility!
made himself of no reputation; he humbled himself. The very God of the universe became nobody. He
emptied himself, he became a servant. As Isaiah said, he was not handsome or
attractive in such a way as to draw attention to himself. He lived to give
attention only to God. Jesus was truly humble. He had "no reputation."
our awards, the acceptance of others, the glamor of being “somebody,” or the
wonderful happiness of fame, don’t we? We like to be recognized, remembered,
acknowledged, accepted, and celebrated.
neglect me” of "It's all about me" could be the slogans of many in our society.
motto of Christ followers should be “No reputation.” God chooses such
people to further his agenda. Will we be involved, or do we like our perks too
1, Satan appears in God's court. God acknowledges the good job done by Job, and
asks Satan if he has noticed what a righteous person Job has become. Satan's
response is a tough challenge: "Does Job fear God for nothing?"
about what the evil one is implying here. He is asking, "Will a human
serve God with no expectation of something in return?"
humans serve God for nothing?
hurts, doesn't it? Even the mere thought of it as a possibility smarts a bit.
Surely the mighty God of the universe wouldn't expect me to show him respect
and serve his purposes without expectation of payment for services rendered,
humble ourselves to the point where we realize that God owes us nothing? Quite
literally, we have done nothing to merit a reward. Even our service is a response
to his continued mercy.
like Christ, humble ourselves to the point of no reputation? Are we willing to
be "nobodies" in God's service, among his people, even among those
who ought to "recognize" us?
would Christmas look like this year if we (all of us) decided to give with no
expectation of return? What if we humbled ourselves and expected no
acknowledgment? What if we chose to serve anonymously and to bless others
without receiving a blessing in return? What would happen?
you do this Christmas season that will bless others and garnish no
for you? Who can you serve that can't repay you? This year let's commit
ourselves to serving, giving, and loving as Christ did. Let's look for
opportunities to bless others in a way that does not give us
recognition. Instead of asking for things for ourselves, let's give to
the needs of others.
Instead of expecting gifts, let's give our lives away in blessing
would that change Christmas in your neighborhood?
Labels: Christmas, Christmas gift, Christmas meditation, humility, humility of Christ, Job 1, no reputation, Philippians 2:5-9
Since I started this blog about 10 years ago, I have posted a piece I wrote
around Christmas 2003. It kind of sums up for me what is the "Mystery of
Christmas" as I meditated on the Incarnation and its implications for
humanity (and perhaps for God as well!). The very idea of God becoming
"one of us among us" (Immanuel) still fascinates and overwhelms me.
God, the creator of all things, humbled himself, became of no reputation, and entered his own creation so as to renew and to
redeem us (and, ultimately, to do these things for all of creation as well). God, the Creator of all
things, became flesh so that he might be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
The God who never knew death would die for us. The God who never knew sin would
become sin for us. What amazing love! Thanks be to God for his inexpressible
gift! As you celebrate the first advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, I hope you
enjoy this rerun. Feel free to make comments if you'd like.
A little over 2000 years ago, a tiny
child was born in some pretty bleak 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 not). 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 awesome, is how some 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 home, 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 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 divine sense of justice and righteousness, out of his
inexpressible love for each of us he acted in this manner.
God humbled himself. In a sense, he took on our insanity so that we may be sane. He became flesh so that we
might walk in his Spirit. He became sin that we might be righteous. He became
poor so that we might be rich. He who had the reputation of Creator became a
humble servant with no reputation. He became a toddling, dribbling, helpless
babe so that we could become mature humans in the image of the almighty Son of
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 us of your sacrifice and love so that we might be a light shining in darkness to others. Teach us to live a life of
humble service like your Son did on our behalf so many years ago. As we celebrate
the babe in the manger, may the glory he revealed in his life shine through us towards others that they may know God. May the grace of God and the peace of
Christ rule in our families and our lives.
Thanks for reading!
Merry Christmas! May you know the blessings of the God who humbled himself and served!
Labels: annual Christmas post, humility of Christ, mystery of Christmas