The Christmas event gives us a glimpse into the very heart of God. Phillips Brooks, the author of the much-loved “O Little Town of Bethlehem” said, “Jesus Christ, is the condescension of divinity and the exaltation of humanity.”
As we recognize the remarkable humility of Jesus in His coming among us less than 25 average life-times ago, we begin to see how His example has changed the world. When Jesus came, humility was not a valued characteristic. The Greeks and Romans often despised humility and saw it as a mark of weakness. Certainly that appears to be the dominant thinking today. I say “appears to be” because I think deep down we admire the genuinely humble person, or at least the humble actions we observe. We may even have a feeling that we function best in community, families, work place and voluntary organizations when humility is exercised.
A moment’s reflection on the Christmas truth (along with the Easter truth) of the living, eternal, unique, divine Son of God allowing himself to come amongst us, will evoke awe, wonder and humility. Add to this that his coming was in the very humble circumstances of a baby, to a poor couple, in an unknown backwater (so far as worldly power was concerned) and of all places, in a stable, and the wonder turns to gratitude.
Humility is not a putting down of ourselves or considering ourselves worthless. None of us is worthless since we are made in God’s image and we are the reason why Jesus bothered to become like us in our humanity and to take our sin upon Himself on the cross. Phillips Brooks put it like this: “the true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is.” When we measure ourselves against others we so easily become self-righteous, proud or even despairing. But against Jesus we are humbled and exalted. Humbled in order to reach out to Him and find pardon and a peace in His purposes, which turns out to be our exaltation.
And what freedom this brings. Gone are the comparisons we make with others. Gone are both our self-righteousness and our unrighteousness. The same Saviour who would forgive us would also keep us humble before others. “Only God is able to humble us without humiliating us and exalt us without flattering us,” wrote Ravi Zacharias. And all because of the Christmas event.
The event of Christmas can genuinely change us as we seek to live for Christ in every relationship. Jonathan Edwards highlighted the joy and challenge of following Christ when he said, “pure Christian humility disposes a person to take notice of everything that is good in others, and to make the best of it, and to diminish their failings.” That’s counter-cultural, but how liberating and challenging. But that’s what Christmas is about!