The Thirteenth Day of Advent
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. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
It’s the American dream! It’s planted deep in our collective consciousness: to be upwardly mobile, climbing the ladder to status, power, and success. And yet, strangely, the Christmas story we so love is about downward mobility. It’s about emptying self, pouring out one’s life, and becoming a humble servant to others.
The apostle Paul begins today’s classic Christmas text pleading with Philippian Christians to live together in forgiveness, compassion, harmony, and humble service. He introduces the ultimate example of this kind of humble love by pointing to Jesus Christ and asking, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”
Here is the mind of Christ! Though the Son of God was fully God He “did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.” In other words, Jesus demonstrated what equality with God truly meant, not by “exploiting” His deity for His gain, but by emptying Himself, by taking the role of servant in becoming one of us. He shows us God’s true nature by pouring out His life for others. He would not hold onto heaven’s glory for His own advantage, but resigned it for you and me. “Here is where the One who is equal with God has most fully revealed the truth about God: that God is love and that his love expresses itself in self-sacrifice – cruel, humiliating death on a cross – for the sake of those he loves.” (Gordon Fee, Philippians: The IVP New Testament Commentary Series)
When our text says that the Son of God came to us and was “found in human form”, it means that Jesus appeared to others just as any other man. This was another mark of Jesus’ humility. People would never have looked at Jesus and thought, “There goes a superhero or a god,” but rather, “He looks like an average Joe.” There were no clues in His appearance that He was God or without any sin. He was truly God living out a truly human life.
God’s humble love led Him “to the point of death – even death on a cross.” How all this happened, we cannot tell! It is a mystery of love so grand that we can never fully understand or tell it, but can joyfully experience and adore. It would have been mystery enough for the Son of God to come to earth and reign as a mighty king. It would have been ever more wondrous and mysterious if He came as a humble servant. But beyond comprehension He came to gather up all sin and all deaths into His own death on the cross.
God so loved the world that He gave His Son. And because God’s Son poured out His life for the life of the world, the Father has raised Him to the heights of exaltation, so that “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The whole aim of Jesus’ life was never for His glory, but for the Father’s glory; that He might truly reveal the boundless love of God the Father for you and me!
In Bethlehem’s gurgling, helpless Baby and in Calvary’s sinless Man on a cross, we learn, “For God it is just as natural to be lowly as it is to be high, to be near as it is to be far, to be little as it is to be great… It is His sovereign grace that He wills to be and is amongst us in humility, our God, God for us.” (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV/1)
Jesus spurned any ladder to status, power, and success, that He might lift us up to God. He was downwardly mobile for your sake and for mine.
- Theologian Karl Barth wrote of the “humility” of God. How does Jesus reveal the humility of God?
- What does God’s humility mean for you today?
- What would Paul’s words mean for you today: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”?
EMBODIED PRAYER: KNEELING
“When the wise men found the baby Jesus, they knelt down and paid him homage” (Matthew 2:11). Many times throughout Scripture and the life of the church we find people kneeling to express their thoughts and feelings. English theologian David Peterson describes the impact of kneeling as we pray:
…an expression of inferior status and subservience to another person. Sometimes this obeisance was an indication of gratitude and sometimes it was associated with supplication or entreaty. Whatever the situation it was a recognition of total dependence of one party on another for the provision of some need…Sometimes it was associated with an outburst of praise, but sometimes the gesture itself appears to have been sufficient to express the trust and gratitude of those concerned. (David Peterson, Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship)
Sometimes people kneel to pray:
- Eyes open
- Looking up
- Hands lifted upward
Sometimes people kneel to pray:
- Looking downward with eyes averted or closed
- Hands folded
Today and every day of the Second Week of Advent pray the Lord’s Prayer while kneeling.