Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My Christmas Story

                The Christmas story is told every year in churches around the globe. Pastors read the words of Jesus’ birth to the congregations. Children put on plays about the nativity, songs are sung, and carols are brought to our doors announcing to us the celebration of Jesus Christ coming into the world. I love the Christmas story. But for me, the Christmas story that I turn to isn’t found in the gospels of Matthew or Luke, it is found in a few verses written by Paul to the Philippians.
                “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death on the cross. Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:6-11
             
   This seems like an odd Christmas story to some, I am sure. Because to us the Christmas story is about Jesus being born as a babe, wrapped in cloth and laid in a dirty trough surrounded by animals. The last place many of us go for the Christmas story is Philippians. But I believe that the Christmas story is explained fully in these words written by Paul, not only to show us why Jesus came, but to show us the sacrifice that He made, not only on the cross, but also at His birth.
                Paul starts this Christmas story with instructions for us. He tells us that this mind of Christ also be in us. This mind is one of service, one of sacrifice, one of freely and willingly giving of ourselves for the sake of others. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about anyway? It’s not about getting gifts, it’s about giving gifts. The gift of our time, our love, our lives for the sake of those in need, just like Christ did for us, as He gave of Himself, gave of His time, gave of His love, and eventually, gave of His life. That is the true meaning of Christmas for me. But how does this all play into the Christmas story? Bear with me, I pray, as I try to explain what it is the Lord is showing me.
                Paul tells us that Christ Jesus was in the form of God. In our language today when we read these words our minds automatically go to the thought that Jesus looked just like God. That He was exactly like Him. In a sense this is true, but there is a deeper meaning and a deeper understanding buried in the context of this very simple word. Jesus was the exact same nature, had the exact same characteristics, of God. It not only means that He was like God, but that He was God. John tells us this truth in his gospel. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) Jesus is God, Jesus was God, and Jesus will always be God. There is no separating the two of them. He is God the Father, Jesus the Son and God the Holy Spirit; three in One.
                Jesus, who is God, now does something that blows my mind every time I read it. He, God, makes Himself of “no reputation”. Think about this for just one second. God, the holiest of Holies, the all powerful, all  mighty, all knowing God who created everything and everyone makes Himself nothing. It is like He took a part of Himself and made Himself become nothing so that we could become something. When I think about that, it just makes me sit in awe and wonder and worship. My God, your God, our God took Himself and became nothing. I want to point out that to make “Himself of no reputation” means that He emptied Himself. This does not mean that He left His throne, or that He left all His power and majesty behind when He came to earth- He still was 100% God and 100% flesh when He was born that night in a manger. That never changed- God is and always will be God.
                What Paul is showing us is that Jesus, who was God, took upon Himself the trappings and coverings of sinful flesh. We know that sin separates us from God. We know that when we were
sinners we were dead and apart from God. This same sin, this same death that we are all born into, is the same sin and death that Jesus was born into- and He willingly took it upon Himself. He made Himself of no reputation. He put upon His divine nature the covering of sinful flesh so that we might be saved. He chose to fill Himself with our sinful nature and face death for each and every living being upon this earth. I don’t know about you, but that knowledge brings me to my knees. To think that my God would willingly take upon my sinful flesh so that He could be a part of my life and so that I could be a part of His, well, that is too much for me to comprehend!
                Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, became a servant and took upon Himself our sins. Just as Mary wrapped Him in swaddling clothes,( which by the way were not sterilized and clean, they were most likely dusty and dirty and parts of their undergarments)  just as Mary wrapped Him in those dirty cloths, He wrapped Himself in our dirty flesh. Our God willingly covered Himself in our filth so that we might be saved. But why, why would Jesus, God in the flesh be so willing to take upon Himself our sinful nature?
                We haven’t done anything to deserve this kind of sacrifice, this kind of love? We haven’t earned His favor, or His forgiveness. So why would He be so willing to take all this upon Himself? Because He loves us, it is that simple. As we see the pictures of Jesus being wrapped in cloths and laying in a manger on social media, and everywhere else, let us remember that He willingly took that place for us. He was born into sin for us. He was wrapped in our filth and our fleshly desires so that we might have a way to be saved. He loves us so much that the thought of forever being apart from us was more than He could bear. He had to save us, because He loves us that much.
                Jesus, our God in the flesh, was born as a babe so that He could experience everything like we do. He went through every age, felt every need, every emotion, every pain, and every sorrow, so that we might know and see the great love that He has for each and every person ever created. He did all that so that no matter what we go through, no matter what temptation arise, no matter what sin has overtaken us, He wrapped Himself in it all so that we might find the love and the grace of His sacrifice and that through it all we might be saved. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16) He was born so that we might obtain mercy and grace when we need it. Amazing, isn’t it!

              
  As you think about the Christmas story this season, think about the sacrifice that He gave to come and to be born as a babe. We focus on the sacrifice of the cross, and we should, but we forget about the sacrifice of His birth. He gave it all up so that you might know the depth, and the height, and the width of His love for you. This Christmas may we be able to “comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height” (Ephesians 3:18) that our God went through so that we might be saved. I pray that this Christmas, as you read the Christmas story, as you see the pictures of our God laid in a manger, that you would remember the sacrifice not only of His death, but of His birth as well. I pray that you would see the width, the length, the depth and the height that He went through just to show you how greatly you are loved by Him. Amen?