By John Crotts / Faith Bible Church: firstname.lastname@example.org
The film “The Nativity Story,” released a few years ago, did a wonderful job of bringing the humanity of the Christmas story to life.
My daughter, who was 10 at the time, whispered to me, “Mary didn’t seem grown up enough!” That’s right. She was probably just an early teenager when she became pregnant with Jesus.
An often-overlooked perspective of this season is the humility of birth of Jesus. Even though it is right to shout out with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest!” it is also important to quietly worship God for the humility of the Christmas story. One of the Wise Men in the movie remarked something like the greatest of kings was born in the most humble of places.
The very fact of the incarnation shows the humility of Christmas.
Paul used the incarnation of Jesus as the model for our attitude of humility. Philippians 2:5-7 says, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men."
From all eternity past God the Son existed in the form of God. Instead of clinging to all of his royal rights and divine prerogatives, he willingly set aside the independent use of some of his attributes to take on humanity in addition to his full deity.
Although Jesus never laid aside his deity, he exhibited profound humility in becoming a man. The very fact that God would become a man should stagger our pride. We should adore the humble Christmas baby.
Besides the fact of the incarnation, the surroundings of the incarnation add to the portrait of humility. I’ve often thought how appropriate it would have been for Jesus to ride out of heaven in a royal chariot burning with white flames. Ten thousand angels could flank him on his right and his left. The surrounding countryside would be alive with excitement, as the light from his arrival would turn the night into daylight. Everyone within a 50-mile stretch who was able would rush to do homage to the newly arrived King of the universe.
As fitting as my vision may seem, the birth of Jesus could not have been more different.
Not only did the God-man not arrive in a flaming chariot, he allowed himself to be born as a baby. That fact alone manifests his humility. Although the story of the virgin Mary being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and conceiving Jesus is very familiar to us (see Luke 1:26-38), consider its humble implications.
There was nothing glamorous about being born to a poor young girl. Even though we can read all about the angel’s visit to Mary, and the miraculous conception of Jesus, what did the town of Nazareth think about Mary’s integrity? In Jesus later ministry, what were the Pharisees implying about Jesus when they said, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God” (John 8:41)?
As a normal man, Joseph was very troubled when he found out that his fiancé, Mary, was pregnant. God sent an angel to visit Joseph to keep him from divorcing Mary. Engagements during this time were called betrothals and involved as much of a commitment as marriage. Therefore, any sexual relations outside of the engagement were as serious as adultery, even though the couple was not technically married.
The angel of God had to assure him that the child within Mary’s womb was conceived by the Holy Spirit. After that assurance, Joseph took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until Jesus was born (Matthew 1:18-25).
The location of Jesus’ birth further portrays the humility of Christmas. Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem where they were required to go for a census. Luke 2:6-7 says, “And it came about while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Not only did Jesus not come in regal royal robes and reside in a majestic palace, He was born in a stable, which was probably a cave where the animals were kept. A manger is a feeding trough, probably carved into the wall of the cave, where the dirty, smelly animals ate.
Instead of the rulers of the world, or the nation, or the village coming to see Jesus the night of his birth, the newborn King had humble visitors. Luke 2:8-20 tells the story of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherd, who made haste to see what the Lord had done. While these men were probably devout, shepherds were one of the lowliest classes of people.
Their occupation kept them from fulfilling the ceremonial law, they had a reputation of being thieves, and they could not testify in the courts of law. These humble men received the greatest birth announcement ever.
While – in the film – there were some details of The Nativity Story that were compressed – such as including the visit of the Wise Men on the night Jesus was born – and some of the dialogue added to make the story flow, those who made the film did their homework. They tried to stay true to the Bible and the historical situation of the time when Jesus was born.
I hope you see it and wonder in amazement at the humble story that the Bible tells.
The humility of the incarnation is finally seen in the life of the Incarnate One. Back in Philippians 2, Paul finishes his thought about the humble Christ by declaring that, “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Humility, service, meekness and love marked Jesus’ life. Ultimately he sacrificed his life as a substitute for all who would believe in him. All of the glorious humility of Christmas points forward to the cross of Good Friday and the resurrection of Easter morning.
When you are tempted to get carried along in all the hype of the holidays – “I want more presents!” “Get out of my parking space!” “I didn’t want that!” remember the awesome humility of the One whose birth we are celebrating. If you need his mercy and forgiveness, it’s available to all that will turn to him and believe.