24 Dec 2011

Recently I was asked to write an article on what Christmas meant to me and I was wondering what I could say that was new. So often we read the familiar accounts of Jesus’ birth in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Or we see the deeper meaning of it in John. But what was it like for Jesus Himself?

In the book of Philippians chapter 2 we read of Christ’s humility and how we should imitate it. Verses 5-7 say, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (NIV).

Operating in the political field I find these verses particularly challenging. Politicians often push themselves forward, seek the limelight, scrap for high position. It is tempting to do the same. But Christmas brings home to us how differently Jesus did things. Maybe we concentrate on how different Christ was from us during his time on earth. Yet, the very fact people argued over who he was, indicates he was not that very different after all. I find it mind-blowing to think of what he gave up to switch from the highest heaven to being born in a stable and living in a fairly basic environment (without even electricity or TV!).

When I worked in Nepal, it was easy to think of all the things we had given up in the West to go out to South Asia and live there. Yet we were challenged to remember how many Nepalis would see us… as having so much more materially than they did and being different in many ways from them. We tended to be proud of ourselves for doing so much to bridge the cultural divide. Yet by contrast we see no pride in Jesus as he crossed another cultural divide. And clearly the divide he crossed and what he gave up is much more than we can even imagine.

In Luke chapter 14 Jesus notes how the guests at an event “picked the places of honour”. Then he challenges the disciples and us to “take the lowest place”. He concludes by saying, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

So for me Christmas is an opportunity to reassess where I am and hopefully realign myself with Jesus and where he wants me to be. Have I drifted away from Jesus’ example of being a servant? There can be no better time than Christmas to put on more of a servant attitude.