I can’t even begin to recount the number of times that I have read the Christmas story. While there is a short account in the book of Matthew, there is a much longer narrative written by the good doctor, Luke. In fact, Luke is quick to let us know that the account that he wrote was from eyewitness reports, was factual and accurate – and he wanted to let his readers know that he intended to give a detailed account of the life of Jesus. Of all the Gospels, Luke was the most definitive in telling us the about the certainty of what he was about to share with us. In fact, he was clear in letting us know five times in the first four verses that he had carefully investigated everything that he was telling us and that it was the truth!
It is in this book that we encounter the most complete story of Jesus, what we call the Christmas Story, ever told. It’s the story that we have all heard multitudes of times from our earliest childhoods in almost every Christian home across the land.
This Christmas season, I am reading a daily devotional from Dallas Theological Seminary that contains stories and verses about the attributes of Jesus during His time on earth. While some of the articles are rather deep (they are written by DTS faculty), today’s offering was awesome in its simplistic approach detailing the arrival of Jesus.
You see, most of us think of what Jesus gave up to take on human form and come to earth as an infant. After all, we know that God is omnipresent (everywhere at once), omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (all powerful). And we know that God created the heavens, the earth and everything else that was mentioned in the Creation story in Genesis and the beginning of the Gospel of John.
And when we envision a helpless child in a manger, we wonder with awe why Jesus would give up aspects of His divinity to come to earth and live among us. But Jesus didn’t give up His divinity to enter our world. Jesus was fully God when he arrived here; and yet He was also fully human as a baby in Bethlehem; and throughout the rest of His earthly life.
God the Father didn’t ask Jesus to give up anything. Rather, He added something to the Son. And what he added was humanity – God taking on bodily form and all that was embodied in that outcome. As far as we know, this was the first time that God the Creator actually took on a fully physical form and dealt directly with His creation. We know God walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve but we don’t know that he was physically present with them in body – but He was certainly with them in Spirit.
As soon as Jesus was born, He experienced a vulnerability that He had never experienced before taking on the form of a baby. God the Father isn’t vulnerable – but Jesus, in His humanness, needed to be protected just as each of us do in our very own lives.
When we read about the incarnation of Jesus, we focus on the fact that Jesus “emptied” Himself of the some of the prerogatives of deity. In other words, Jesus came to do the will of the Father and by association, we think that Jesus was weaker, or subordinate, because of that. But that’s not the case here. Even Paul reminds us that Jesus, by adding physical presence, assumed the most lowly position possible. Jesus has even been referred to as a “slave” and assumed the messiness and vulnerability that we all, as humans, face. But this humanity added something to the story that never existed before.
And Jesus didn’t just come down for for a moment and then return to heaven. He lived life among us, depending on God the Father for His support. He had to trust the Father completely, and that is not easy to do. Yet, that, as Christians, is what we are called to do in our daily lives.
Our verse for tonight is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul tells us, in no uncertain terms, about the status of Jesus on earth. He tells us, in Philippians 2:5-11, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! 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 confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
My encouragement this Christmas season is that God loved (and loves) us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to earth, in human form, to live among us as a model of behavior for all of us to emulate and pay the ultimate sacrifice, death on a cross, for our sins. My prayer is that we will all take a moment and look at the miracle of God in human form. And that we can all celebrate the incarnation of Christ and the vulnerability that he experienced adding humanity to His list of attributes. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…