Would you choose to be poor over being rich? Would you choose to be powerless instead of powerful? Would you choose to endure mistreatment unjustly rather than fight for your rights? Would you choose to be homeless and wander the streets from town to town? Would you give up your status and position in order to go far away and help someone who won’t even appreciate what you are doing while you are there?
I don’t know if I would, but I must confess that I haven’t (other than temporarily) done so. I live in a comfortable house, I have work that provides, I expect to be treated fairly and my trips to far off places to help others have all been temporary – guaranteed to be temporary because I bought round-trip tickets. And I suspect you are not so different from me, though possibly (hopefully) some of you are doing better than I am.
But whenever I think about Christmas, it isn’t the holiday stuff that gets my attention (I do have some reputation as a semi-Scrooge) because it seems more significant to me that we remember just what Jesus’ birth signifies about God’s character. The apostle Paul wrote (this is Philippians 2:5-11) that Jesus chose to empty himself of the nature and power and status and position he was entitled to and to humble himself in order to become human – incarnation – born a little baby in a humble and poor family. Even more startling is the idea that Jesus gave up all that he was entitled to have so he could become not merely human, but a servant to human beings. And that in that service, he was doing God’s will, acting as God desired, choosing again and again to place us, all of us, ahead of his own prerogatives and “rights.” And Jesus was so passionately committed to the will of God that he accepted an unjust condemnation and an excruciatingly painful death rather than exert his “rights.” And given the unity of God, the oneness of God that Jesus proclaimed was his, we realize we have this astounding story of God’s love for all of us. God made a way to share our circumstances, to experience our grief and pain, to face the cruelty of evil injustice and the bitterness of death, through the birth of Jesus. And he did it on purpose. He chose all of this. All because God truly loves everything he created even when we don’t love him back.
I admit I don’t really like the hype and I am not so sure of exactly what day of the year Jesus was really born on, but I am certain that the day that Jesus was born, the day God came to earth in the humble and helpless form of a little baby, is worthy of our celebration. The day that God’s love for all of us was demonstrated by incarnation. May the apostle John’s words bless you in remembering Jesus’ birth this year: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1,14 ESV).
Merry Christmas everyone.