A few years ago, several feuding monks at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem landed in the hospital after a fight broke out over the dusting of church chandeliers. The Smithsonian magazine carried the story. Occasional brawls at the 1,700-year-old basilica, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, reveal the difficulty of housing three Christian denominations under a single roof. The resident clerics—from the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox churches and the Franciscan order of the Roman Catholic Church—are jealous of each other's claims of custody and have been unable to agree on a plan of action. This lack of cooperation at times leaves a poorly maintained building. This is almost more irony than I can take! Conflict among followers of the Prince of Peace right on the traditional site of His birth!
How far we in the church can get from the simply beauty of Christ humbling himself and taking the form of a servant, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-11)! He became one of us. Don’t let the wonder of this pass you by. That’s one giant stoop for the Son of God – becoming one of us. C.S. Lewis likens Christ’s becoming human to us becoming a gnat! From way up there to way down here He came. And He came not as an adult, not as an instant wise prophet or miracle worker, but as a pink-cheeked baby, homeless, helpless, and threatened. He came lowly.
Then add to the wonder of the incarnation that the Son of God became a human to serve us. He experienced what it’s like to be human in every way, from conception to burial. He went through temptation, conflict, heartbreaking grief, betrayal, and pain for us. He never once sinned through it all, serving us with a sinless life that God counts as our life – because we believe in Jesus and what He did. He served us in living and He served us in dying and coming to life again. As He put it Himself: “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). You heard Him right. The Son of God called Himself “the Son of Man,” one of us.
I’ve always loved that to enter the Church of the Nativity one must stoop down low. The small entrance to the basilica is called the Door of Humility, filled in to prevent raiders from entering on horseback. The incarnation of Jesus Christ calls us all to stoop in service. It happens when our hearts are set ablaze with the needs of another. How low will we go? That’s up to each of us as God leads us, but I hope it’s low enough to identify with the One who went way low for us. I hope we go low enough in service that we lose ourselves and truly need Him along the way.
Recently I read about a company that makes blank bumper stickers. That’s right, blank. Their market, they say, is people who don’t want to get involved. Cute. Christmas is about God getting involved in our needs, and about us getting involved in the needs of others. After all, when we finally get to heaven, we’re not expecting Him to say, “Well done, good and faithful consumer” or “Well done, good and faithful shopper” or “good and faithful investor.” No, these are the words we long to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21 ). Serve well, my friend, and gladly, for in serving you live close to the Christmas gospel, and you are most like Him. A blessed Christmas!
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