Like most people, I love Christmastime. The whole season seems to carry with it a childlike anticipation of something good just around the corner. People are willing to dream of impossible things being possible. And we seem to be more kind and patient overall with one another during the holiday season. Christmas means a lot of different things for me. There’s joy: getting presents, seeing smiles on children’s faces, enjoying the lights and decorations. There’s hope: the birth of Christ ushers in the hope of salvation. People behave a little more like we hope they would all the time. I hope my loved ones like what I’m giving them this year.
This year, though, I have been struck with the idea of humility. I am so quick to be puffed up with pride, self-absorbed, and self-centered. Christmas can even make that worse and I start to obsess about MY plans and what gifts I want and what I’m going to get and all the fun I’m going to have. I’m even quicker to see pride in other people. I was irritated just last night at several people who decided to park at the curb instead of in a parking space so they could save some steps. “The nerve of some people!” I self-righteously thought, even as I found myself angry that MY time was wasted at an unnecessary meeting as though the world should revolve around ME.
If anyone should be humble, it’s me. There is nothing that I own that I haven’t somehow been given by others or by the grace of God. There is nothing that I do that has any value except that God has given me health and strength and gifts. There is nothing special about me apart from God’s salvation that made me His child. And yet I struggle to stop thinking of myself first and at the center of the universe. C.S. Lewis famously said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
Christmas is, at its foundation, a story of absurd humility. The one being who has any reason to be prideful, the Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, the beginning and the end, desired to set things right and restore a relationship with His creation. Did he come in great glory and power? Did he overcome evil with a mighty show of force? Not this time.
Instead, He made Himself a weak human baby. And if that wasn’t low enough, He made it so He was born to a young virgin unmarried girl. And if that wasn’t low enough, He planned it so that He was born in a stable and laid in a feeding trough used by the animals. Even then, His glory could not go completely unnoticed or unannounced, but did He announce it to the royalty of the day? No. He celebrated it with the poor, lowly shepherds out in the fields. Absurd humility.
Paul puts it this way: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:5-8) Peter tells us that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6)
Or as a worship pastor once told me, “God blesses the humble, not the talented.”
May this year’s Christmas season remind us that the God we serve went to great lengths to show us how to truly love each other.