I love Christmas, I really do! It’s my favorite holiday and my favorite time of year because the air is charged with a different kind of spirit and expectation that something’s coming. Even though I love Christmas and I’ve been listening to Christmas music since way before it was socially acceptable to do so (sorry to anyone who has ridden in my car in the last month), it still seems to sneak up on me, and then pass with more of a fizzle than a bang… so, in expectation of Christmas, and in an effort to get my mind right for the holidays, I am going to do a short devo every day leading up to Christmas built out of some of my favorite Christmas carols. I hope you’ll join me for some or all of these next 12 days of Christmas!
Away in a manger, no crib for His bed…
(^if you have time listen to this^ like wow… The Isaacs are INCREDIBLE)
Every year when we decorate our house for Christmas, we pull out all the big blue boxes from the attic and lug them down the stairs into the living room. The moment the lids come off, a wave of nostalgia envelops our house as ornament after ornament brings back memory after memory. One of my favorite decorations that my family has had for as long as I can remember is a little nativity scene that we usually set on the fireplace or the coffee table. It’s the classic picture you see everywhere: baby Jesus in the middle with Mary and Joseph crouching over the manger, wise men and shepherds standing behind them with gifts, and then you have to have some farm animals and maybe an angel or two peaking in. I’ve never really stopped though to think about how weird that picture is. The nativity is one of those things that has become so common to us as a cultural symbol in Christmas time that we have lost the novelty of it. We see it so often it stops being strange, even though it should be strange to us.
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).
Mary wasn’t giving birth in a stable because she thought it’d make a cute, eclectic Christmas card picture. They were pushed out to the stable because they were poor and didn’t have a reservation at the La Quinta or Marriott. When God was planning for how He was going to send His rescue mission to save mankind from sin and death, He could have placed Jesus in a position to have influence. Jesus could have been born to a wealthy family and brought His kingdom with trumpets and power, but instead He chose to come by the means of a young, scared couple living in poverty in a small town. God chose to send Jesus to be born in a manger. This is a dirty, probably smelly barn stable, and the God of the universe is laying in an animal’s feed trough. That’s crazy. That should strike us as strange, but the way that Jesus came is good news to us. When we look at the nativity we should not only be stuck by the fact that they’re in a stable, but we should be struck by the humility of our God.
“who, though he [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV).
Take a moment to consider the significance of that. The God of the universe stepped out of the comforts and joys of heaven, to be with you. Other religions teach that we have to work to get back to God, but Christianity teaches that God came to us. If Christ was not willing to humble himself, we would all be left to hell. Jesus, though he was and is the God worthy of all glory, is also the most humble person ever to walk the face of the earth.
Just looking at this passage in Philippians, we see that Christ is humble in the way he came, in his service and consideration of others, and in his obedience. Christ entered the scene as a baby in a manger, fully dependent on broken people to take care of him and raise him; though he is the one who created them. Christ entered the scene as a man living in a broken world dealing with sinful people; though he is the one they sinned against. Christ was a servant, giving his time and energies to healing, teaching, and loving people; though they didn’t deserve it. Christ was the suffering servant that was willing to take on the punishment for our sins; though he did nothing wrong himself. Christ, though He is fully God, submitted himself to the will of His Father to go through with this rescue plan when He didn’t have to and we didn’t deserve it. Jesus humbled himself and that is good news to us! Amen? When we look at the nativity scenes that are all over the place during this season, and as we reflect on the real meaning of Christmas, we have the opportunity to remember the humility of Christ, and the saving grace that His humility has brought us through faith in Him.
Pray: God thank you for humbling yourself to save me. Jesus you are worthy of all glory, honor, and power, but you were willing to come as a baby and live as a servant because you loved me, and that is incredible. Help me to live in humility as you did, and help me to live my life in remembrance of your great love and service to me on the cross. Thank you for coming to me when I could not bring myself to you. In Jesus name, Amen.
[Note: In retrospect I should have made Ricky Bobby jokes… mistakes were made, there’s 10 more days though so stay with me 😉 ]