Buried in the back pages of a lesser-known Jerusalem newspaper, a story ran relating the rather difficult experience of a new mother—in the nearby small town of Bethlehem—as she sought the help she needed for giving birth to her child. She and her husband were strangers to the town, which made it all the more difficult to believe what the reporter recounted. In his article he explained that the baby was not able to receive the proper care for the delivery and ended up being born in a small barn that was full of animals and all the smelly stuff that goes along with that. The town officials told the reporter that there was just no room anywhere else and they could do nothing for the young couple. So, as reported, the child’s first views of the world came from a dirty little stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem—quite a traumatic experience for any newborn and his mother. The reporter also inquired of a well-known University of Jerusalem psychiatrist as to what this kind of experience might do to the child’s delicate psyche. Wouldn’t this kind of horrible experience leave the child traumatized and set-up for a life of acting out with negative behaviors? The answer this expert from the University gave was quite pointed: “When a child is born into this kind of negative life situation,” the psychiatrist pontificated, “they are always more likely to act out in addictive and negative lifestyles since they are always going to be plagued by the memories of their abusive first encounters with life. The abuse is stamped in their hearts and there’s nothing anyone can do about that. Most likely this young man will need years of psychotherapy to overcome the trauma and abuse he went through.” To this extremely negative prediction from the Doctor the still-healing mother had this to say: “My name is Mary and my husband’s name is Joseph. The name of our beautiful little child is Jesus. We are what you would call deep believers in God! And because we are believers in a good and gracious God, we see things quite differently. We know that what we just went through was much less than we wanted for our precious little Son, but life is made up of some less-than-desirable experiences. And even though this was humiliating for us to go through it will NOT define our lives. We believe God brought us here and He will use these humiliating circumstances to place in Jesus’ heart a deep and profound humility. It’s all in how you perceive it. The unavoidable circumstances may have made things look bad for us, but God meant it for our good. And if it’s good by God’s standards then it’s great for us. Jesus will be just fine and this undue humiliation will turn out to turn his heart humbly toward God.” I hope that this introduction gets you thinking about what actually happened the day our Lord was born. Born into the humiliation of squalor, He grew strong in humility unto His Father and gave up His life so we could live eternally with Him in Heaven! The following are excerpts taken from an article by author Alistair Begg entitled “Wrapped in Humility.” I pray that it causes your heart to grow in grace during the Christmas season and beyond—seeing all we encounter as the ground for godly humility.
“Have this mind in yourselves … Even though He was God He humbled Himself, taking on the very nature of a servant.” Philippians 2:5–7
“When we look into the night sky along with the shepherds, we see a host of angels. The shepherds are going through the normal duties of keeping the sheep when suddenly the sky is filled with splendor, magnificence and song. Inevitably, this surprised them. But in light of where this child came from, the real surprise is not in the presence of an angelic throng: the real surprise would be the absence of them on such a night. What would be a surprise is if God could come in a moment in time, and do so in a way that wasn’t accompanied in some measure by the splendor that had marked Him in eternity. In eternity, the Father, the Son and the Spirit shared coequally in all God is. The Son, who was about to become incarnate, was possessed of the glory of God, the likeness of God, the image God, the splendor of God, indeed, everything that makes God, God. Everything that causes the angels to adore God was there in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we begin there, the impact of what follows is staggering. Sometimes you may hear of someone who is doing something of exceptional worth or kindness, and someone else says about that person, “I’ll tell you what’s remarkable about her. If you knew where she came from the fact that she comes down here to do what she’s doing is really amazing.” They’re saying that while what she’s doing is significant, if you knew her background, where she came from, and what she left behind, you would understand that it is all the more remarkable she is here.
The hymn writer of the Christmas carol captures this in the line: “Thus to come from highest bliss down to such a world as this.” The Holy Spirit wants us to understand where Jesus came from. Paul tell us, “Jesus Christ, who, though He was God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Coming in the very form and nature of God, Jesus didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped. In other words, instead of holding on to His uninterrupted glory, He chose to set it aside in true humility and come to us. What does it say about Jesus when Paul tells us that He, “made Himself nothing”, or literally, “Himself He emptied.” It says that coming into the world, Christ chose not to arrive in a fashion that was so marked with dignity and style that it would immediately cause people to say, “Oh, this must be God incarnate.” In fact, remember what the angel said to the shepherds, “This will be a sign to you. You will find the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” What a strange sight, a child in a manger. What kind of child is this that would be born in a manger? The sign He unveiled was not an exquisite chariot parked at His disposal. It wasn’t a glorious scepter wielded by a King but an unseemly and dirty stable that was filled with an air of true humility. “He came not to be served but to serve.” He “made himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant.” In other words, He became as much of an earthly servant as He was the heavenly sovereign of all He created. Jesus’ life continued to be a perfect example of one who moved from humiliation to humility for He went from a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, to a young man full of grace, wrapped in a towel and wiping the feet of His disciples. As always, Jesus was taking the form of a servant, for to this He was born. All the humiliation He gave Himself over to became the ground for a life of true humility and service, even service unto death. It is not by decreasing that He made Himself “nothing”. For in the taking to Himself the form of a Human Being and a servant, He added to His nature the reality of being a man “of no reputation.” This is the paradox we all encounter in this human condition: we must die to ourselves in order to live for Christ. A Believer must die if he is to serve. The eternal Christ never ceased to be who He is, but neither had He done anything to hold on to the glory that was and is His alone—He is God almighty who took the form of a servant to all. He who is the eternal Son of God became nobody in order that He could serve and save those who were lost. This is what it means to endure humiliation, turning it into godly humility that seeks to serve. He “made Himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant.” [By Alistair Begg, entitled “Wrapped in Humility.”]
We hear a lot today about the need for community service but not much about the motives that move our hearts to serve. For Jesus it was clear, He served because it was in His DNA—life is in the blood and His’ was pure and born to serve. That’s why no one had to tell Him how to be a giver and receiver for because of heavenly love He came to seek, save, and serve those who were lost. Today this, too, is our calling as fellow lovers of God and those people who yet have the life of Christ within them.
The need to serve–motivated by a godly heart–has rarely been more important than right now. People everywhere—and even some we know—are losing their homes or can’t even put food on the dinner table. This is a very trying time in our nation and in the world at large. And being an American Christian does not exempt us from the trials other Christians faces in dangerous places around the world—even the kind that we see in the most dangerous places where Believers are persecuted and killed for their faith or being missionaries and preachers of God’s word. The fact is radicle Islamists are exploring and investigating soft targets to terrorize cities all over the world, and even here in America. It would hardly be a surprise to see terrorist do here in a city like Los Angeles what they did in Kenya where 59 people were killed and 175 injured. The shopping center the Terrorists attacked in Kenya was built by an American company, Westgate Malls and they are soft targets all over America.
Everybody is going through something and because we are Christians we blessed above all others—not because we have a lot of wealth but because we have the love and grace of God—we should try to be listeners and givers. Listen to the needs of those around us who may not say they are hurting even though they are—listen closely and ask God how you can help them. And that’s the giver part. We really do have much to give and if we ask God He will help us know who and how we can aid others—being like Him as He gave from His heart. I pray that this Christmas is a time of blessings to you and yours and anyone else God puts on your heart. Being a godly giver just kills that old Grinch. And also, let me thank you so much for your generosity to this ministry. I know times are difficult so being a giver is a blessing to us and, I’m sure, to God as well. He sees and knows our needs and is always responding. And part of your gifts go to helping many of the military families left at home while their spouse is in harm’s way. Please keep them in your prayers and if you know some military family in need help them yourselves or send us their names and other information we need to contact them. This goes on all year so any donations marked for the military that you send to Dayspring will reach them in their needs.
In His service and humility,