Jesus is the reason for the season. Yet we manage to talk so much about Christmas and so little about Christ. I saw one Christmas special where every artist interviewed saw Christmas as the season of good will. It is a time for being nice to people who you haven`t seen. It’s when you finally meet your relatives who you avoided all year. I want to say that they are half right. There is a tight connection between the birth of Christ and being kind to each other. Our Bible reading helps us make that link, Philippians 2:3-4:
in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (NIV)
Now that is something we expect the Bible to say. But it is not natural. As we were about to open the Christmas presents, I said to my grand daughter, “Audrey, this year why don’t we give all our present to the poor children?” It wasn’t quite a death stare, but it came very close. It’s not natural to consider others above yourself.
In the midst of the Christmas rush my new phone died. On Thursday, I was trying to get it fixed. It took me three car trips, three long conversations on the phone, and six hours in two shops, before I walked out with a replacement. I wasted a full day. Well, the last thing I wanted to do was “in humility consider others better than yourselves” (NIV). So as I come to these words I say, “Give me one good reason”.
But what sets these words apart from any other is the one who steps into these words. We are have the mind of Jesus. We need to know where Jesus started and where he ends up. Here is Jesus’ great bungy jump. Philippians 2:6:
[Jesus] who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; (NIV)
So the one whom we call Jesus is equal with God. He is the very nature, the very stuff of God. That is why we say, “Jesus is God”. His home address has always been heaven. This Jesus refuses to hold onto that which is his. What do you call it when you take something that is not yours? It’s stealing. What do you call it when you take what is yours? That's exercising your rights. What do you call it when you refuse to take what is yours by right? It’s both amazing and rare.
Jesus did not just put himself out. This is more than taking out the garbage without being asked, or washing up when it is not your turn. That’s fairly amazing. From the heights of heaven, God comes down, down, down, into your shoes. This one who is equal with God at the first Christmas, Philippians 2:7, “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (NIV).
Wow, he made himself nothing. Literally, he emptied himself. He did not stop being God, but he started being a man. That kid in the manger in Bethlehem is truly human and truly God. He is not like RoboCop—part robot and part man—he is truly human and truly God.
What I am saying is this: Two thousand years ago, in the womb of the virgin Mary, God changed, and he remains changed. Jesus laid aside all his God-given power, glory, and honour, and allowed himself to be breastfed and to have his nappies changed.
Here is a new Christmas bumper sticker: “The meaning of Christmas: When God had a dummy put in his mouth”. On that first Christmas morning, God slept head to toe with an ass. But Jesus’ bungy jump has not yet hit rock bottom, Philippians 2:8a:
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself (NIV)
In a world where you are lucky if someone will cross the street to help you, God crossed the universe to meet you in the flesh. Here is the humility of God, who comes not to be served but to serve. So it makes perfect sense that he would say to us, “count others better than yourself”. Because that is exactly what he did. In an age of rights where my interest take priority over yours, where looking after no one is about looking after me and I demand my right to do whatever I want, whenever I choose, with whomever I decide, we are told think like Jesus, who though being God, took the big step down. He humbled himself by becoming human. God got on his knees for us.
I never found it easy getting on me knees and entering into the world of my kids. My kids loved playing with playdough and duplo. They could sing, ‘Old Macdonald Had a Farm’ four hundred times and never get bored. They would put on ‘Little tootoo’ and pretend to go shopping, and that was just my son! I know that when I put him first and showed my love for him in those games was when I got down on my knees to enter into their world. The more I do it, the more they say, “More daddy!”, well, now it’s, “More nunno!” I learnt that from Jesus, who got on his knees and entered our world and became human.
The downward move of Jesus is not just seen in that he went from heaven to earth and from God to man. There’s more to it, Philippians 2:8:
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (NIV)
The step Jesus took was not just from God to man, but from God to death. Jesus knew when he took the bungy jump from heaven to earth that the rope was too long and he would die. So the “hands that flung stars into space” were the same hands that surrendered to those cruel nails. He was obedient to death.
You and I are obedient to death. When death knocks on our door we open it. But Jesus was obedient to God all the way to death. My daughter Amy once asked her mum, “Can you say no to dying?” What a great question? What a great girl? The answer is, “No!”
Death had no power over him, but Jesus chose to take death upon himself. Whereas death comes to us, Jesus went to it. But Jesus went lower still, for in choosing his death, Jesus chose the curse of the cross. The bible is clear: cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree. At the core of crucifixion is the impaling of a victim by iron spikes to a wooden frame. God’s son obeyed his Father all the way to that kind of death, the accursed death of a cross.
The sign for Jesus in the deaf community is the action of hands touching the wrist. Brilliant! You can’t think of Jesus without thinking of his obedience to death on the cross.
This God seems to have no self-respect. The God and judge of the universe has fallen on his knees and dropped flat on his face in the blood stained ground. In a world where everyone wants to move up—better job, better partner, better body, better friend—Jesus was downwardly mobile.
For what reason? The Son of God became the Son of Man so that we children of men could become children of God. Jesus came to earth to give a blood-bought forgiveness paid for on a blood stained cross.
He was not forced to do it. He had not been nagged into this death by his Father. He was not trapped by his Fathers will. He is no robot. He chose to make himself nothing. He humbles himself, he is not humbled.
This is the reason I was looking for. We all have walked away from others in need. In Jesus we have met the God who refused to walk away from us. This is the only reason that will do when it comes to considering others better then ourselves. The God who gives the orders is the God who has done it himself: bigger, better, and more beautiful. You can’t be the same after meeting the God who fell to his knees.
Coming first as far as God is concerned is not about winning an argument or shouting the loudest, being the smartest or sounding the funniest. Coming first is about being like Jesus, who made himself nothing, who considers others better than himself.
If this seems a little mamby pamby, then chances are that it’s not that I don’t know your situation: it’s more likely that you have not met the Lord Jesus. But it certainly doesn’t end there, Philippians 2:9-11:
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)
Christians don’t worship a baby. Christians don’t worship a dead Jesus. Christians worship a living Lord Jesus, and right now he is ruling this universe. The question is not whether you are going to bow before him, but from where. For you will bow down to him, whether from the heights of heaven or the pit of hell, every knee will willingly or unwillingly, lovingly or begrudging, bow before him. You are commanded to submit to this Jesus and be like him because he is Lord.
God got on his knees for you. It is now time for you to get used to getting on your knees for him. What better day to start that new relationship than today? What better day to be born again than on the day we remember that Jesus was born.
Thank you, Father for giving us the greatest gift of all, your son, the Lord Jesus Christ, on the first Christmas day. Thank you Jesus for giving up all your rights, entering our world, dying for our sins, and offering each of us a clean slate. And now, as Lord of all, we trust you and surrender our lives to you.
In Jesus’ powerful name.