The Humble Christmas Birth: God's Expression of love
When we think of passages of scripture that tell the Christmas story we naturally gravitate to Luke and Matthew.
But if we were to find an appropriate passage in Paul, we might turn to Philippians 2:5-8, where Paul is citing an early hymn of the church:
Let the same mind be in you that
was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself,
and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. (NRSV)
As he reflects on this passage in his sermon “God’s Love to Fallen Man,” John Wesley asks:
What manner of love is this wherewith the only-begotten Son of God hath loved us! So as to ‘empty himself,’ as far as possible, of his eternal Godhead!
As to divest himself of that glory which he had with the Father before the world began! As to ‘take upon him the form of a servant, being found in fashion as a man’! And then to humble himself even further, ‘being obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross!
We think of Christmas as a time of peace and good will. We are right to do so, although our conception of what they mean may be a bit less than what the angelic hosts proclaimed. But what we miss so often about Christmas is what Wesley expresses so well: the sheer astonishment that God the Son would become one of us, and indeed one of us not born in a royal family but among the poor of Galilee. What kind of God does this?
Wesley is clear that it is a God who loves, and whose love for us is so immense to defy adequate description. We can only marvel at this love; we can only respond with unending praise and thanksgiving. And, as Wesley says in the sermon, “If God so loved us, how ought we to love one another!”
If we seek words that begin to express the wonder at what God has done, we could do no better than to look to Charles Wesley. In his Nativity Hymns he writes these lines:
Him the angels all ador’d
heir Maker and their King.
Tidings of their humbled Lord
they now to mortals bring:
Emptied of his majesty,
of his dazzling glories shorn,
Being’s source begins to be,
and God himself is BORN!