A few 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 Christ.
Philippians 2:5-8 HCSB
"Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death-- even to 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 year. 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 different people.
For some 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 know 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 the Incarnation of God. 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. 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?
Hear me out . . .
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 starkness of a feeding trough, and ultimately he would even become sin and die for humanity even though he was innocent. Remember, dead and sin were two things he had never experienced before in his eternal existence.
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. 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?
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? 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?
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 or recognition. That requires true humility!
Jesus 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."
We love 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.
“Don’t neglect me” of "It's all about me" could be the slogans of many in our society.
The 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 much?
In Job 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?"
Think about what the evil one is implying here. He is asking, "Will a human serve God with no expectation of something in return?"
Will humans serve God for nothing?
That 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, right?
Can we humble ourselves to the point where we realize that God owes us nothing? Quite literally, we have done nothing to merit a reward from him. Even our service is a response to his continued mercy.
Will we, 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?
What 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?
What can you do this Christmas season that will bless others and garnish no reputation 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 others.
How would that change Christmas in your neighborhood?
Labels: Advent, Christmas, Christmas gift, humble service, humility, no reputation, Philippians 2:5-8