Christmas is a time of wonder…a time when many of us are reminded of Christmases past, of Christmases from a more innocent time in our lives. For most of us, our mental images of the first Christmas are molded at an early age, with thoughts of silent nights and angelic singing and idyllic shepherds, and lavish gifts of wise men and farm animals all kneeling at the manger. Even as adults, when we hear songs about Jesus birth, and the Baby laying in a manger, we often imagine the scene as one of calm and beauty, of joy and perfection.
But, it’s important that we also remember that God coming to earth was not necessarily as serene as we might like to think.
The Message translation of Philippians 2 describes Jesus’ descension to earth this way:
He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.
Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human.
It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges.
Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
To truly appreciate Christmas we must understand the entire story of Christmas, the beautiful and the ugly. Although it was certainly a holy night, it probably wasn’t quiet, being born in a stable with farm animals. It definitely wasn’t clean, and it probably didn’t smell very nice either. The baby Jesus more than likely spent just as much time crying as he did asleep in the hay.
For Christ to humble Himself to become human, born to homeless parents, placed in the feeding trough of filthy animals, acknowledged only by the lowliest outcasts of society, pursued as a criminal to be put to death...it required an incredibly amount of sacrifice and humility, poured out from a heart of love and mercy.
How many kings have stepped down from their thrones, how many lords have abandoned their homes, how many greats have become the least for you and me? Only one did that for me.*
As we share the story of Christmas with others this year, as we paint the picture of that nativity scene, let’s not forget to tell of the sacrifice that the God of the universe made for us.
*Borrowed from the song, "How Many Kings" by Downhere.