the humility of Christmas
HOW he came says a lot about WHY he came.
He didn’t come as you would think a King should come.
The God of the universe…
didn’t arrive with a military or ticker-tape parade. He came after a long journey, riding on a jack-ass over a dusty, dirty road, in the womb of a teenage peasant girl in labor. Was he welcomed into the palace? No. For the cosmic God, there wasn’t even a vacancy in the lowly inn. His birth room would be a crowded, unsanitary stable (read cave) that reeked from the excrement of farm animals.
On the night of his birth, except for some shepherds and a few Magi from a distant land, he arrived anonymously. No family. No fanfare befitting a King. The One who fashioned the atmosphere and created air had to grasp for his first breath in this world. The Bread of Life was totally dependent on a teenage peasant girl to nurse and care for him. The very Word of God who spoke light into the darkness and commanded everything into being had to be taught to speak.
the paradox is beyond comprehension.
“The one who threw the galaxies in motion had to be disciplined as a teenager, learn a trade, and get a job.
The One who threw the galaxies into motion had to be disciplined as a teenager, learn a trade and get a job. The One who belongs to the Trinity (the Father, Son, and Spirit), the most healthy, beautiful relationship there is in all eternity, had to develop people skills and learn about relationships. The Word of God who was face-to-face with the Father, who gave the world the ancient scriptures, patiently sat at the feet of the arrogant religious leaders and acquiesced to their teaching. Later, he would hear those same religious leaders call him a heretic and demon possessed because of the way he interpreted the scriptures he inspired.
The humility is staggering.
The omnipotent (all-powerful) God assembled a rag-tag team of misfits to carry out his mission. They were messy people. Aren’t we all? This itinerant band of naïve followers lived and traveled with him daily. Still, they could not fully grasp the Kingdom of which he taught. Did the omniscient (all-knowing) God of the Universe cast them out for being too stupid, too arrogant, and to slow to learn? No. He loved and embraced them…and continued to teach them. Then, he served them a meal and washed their feet as a parting gesture of his love for them.
The patience is perplexing.
Blow by bloody blow, Jesus essentially remained a hunted man throughout his life. In this scary context, he never failed to call out the religious leaders for their hypocrisy and wrong-headedness. He did it in love, but he pulled no punches. Everywhere he went, the Jewish leaders were intimidated by his interpretation of the law, his friendship with the outcasts, his grace and kindness toward sinners, and his influence over the masses. So, they plotted to kill him.
Eventually, they put a price tag on his head…
…got one of his own to sell him out, and brought him to trial. But they botched the proceedings. Caiaphas (Ki-a-fuss), the High Priest of the Jews, couldn’t get his witnesses to corroborate because there was nothing to corroborate. They had no case. So, knowing that the cross was the only way to take away the sins of the world, Jesus convicted himself. Because of the rulers’ impotence, he signed his own death warrant.
What kind of God does this?
On the day he was tortured and executed, the Light of the World climbed into our darkness, experienced the full measure of our murderous betrayal, took the weight of our sin upon himself, and saw through the cesspool of our lives. In the seething hatred of those who mocked and maligned him (us) he saw the beauty of his creation and cried out, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
Is this the God you know?
How Jesus came tells us something about why he came. He came to show us the true temperament and personality of God—to reveal who God is. He came to show us the love of a Father who created us to know him and enjoy him forever—a Father who is approachable, hospitable and incredibly fond of us. He came to change the world, starting with our inner worlds with the most powerful weapon the world has ever known—love. He came to settle, once and for all, the question of our worth—that we are prized above all. He came to show us our identity and say, “You are mine and I adore you.”
His relentless affection is…stunning.
We—you and me—must be of inestimable value for the Alpha and Omega (the Beginning and End) to leave the throne room of heaven and submit to the life and death of a criminal for our sakes. He did this to become one with us so that with him, we would see ourselves, others, and all of creation as he sees.
Love is a self-giving, other-centered, unconditional commitment to a person who is broken and imperfect. To love someone isn’t just a strong feeling. It is a gutsy, visceral decision of the will. It’s a promise.
You are loved beyond comprehension by the God who knows you, secrets and all, better than you know yourself.
Is that not worth celebrating?
How could Jesus humble himself…
before the religious authorities, before his disciples while washing their feet, before the one friend who betrayed him, and before another who disowned him? He could do it because he had complete and utter security. He knew who and Whose he is. He knew that the Father through the Spirit had him. Jesus had no identity crisis. He had nothing to prove, nothing to hide, and nothing to defend.
Where does that kind of inner security come from?
It comes from knowing that I am loved and accepted. Look back to the beginning of his ministry, Jesus comes up out of the water in the Jordan River after being baptized. At this point, he had done nothing in terms of mission accomplishment. He hadn’t preached, he hadn’t healed anyone, he hadn’t turned water into wine. Yet, you have a massive affirmation from the Father and the Spirit that passionately displayed their love and acceptance of Jesus. The byproduct of this was his identity and unbroken security. Again, he knew who and Whose he is.
Was Jesus’ sense of identity established by something he did? No. It came from accepting his acceptance. It came from loving the Father and trusting the Spirit because they first loved him. He participated by simply opening himself up to their love. Then, he “leaked” that love to everyone he touched.
And so it is with you and me.
If security produces humility and confidence…
…insecurity produces pride and arrogance.
Insecure people often compensate by drawing attention to themselves and doing things to build a facade that portrays, “I’m okay, really.” You can see this when it happens.
…have to be right and win arguments,
…push their agendas, demand their rights, dominate conversations, and
…stir up drama.
…talk about money and show off the trappings of wealth,
…get degrees, write books, excel in athletics, and
…assume a posture of false humility.
Still, other people…
…need to be the center of attention, the life of the party,
…have a me-too or one-up story, and
…talk incessantly, tell, and never ask.
This is how we self-protect and self-promote when we are insecure.
These are just some of the ways……
…we try to stand out, distinguish ourselves, get the world to take us seriously, and be somebody. These are just some of the ways we self-protect and self-promote when we are insecure.
If humility is produced by security which in turn, is grounded in love and acceptance. Then, pride, which is produced by insecurity is grounded in rejection.
People who feel rejected armor up to take care of themselves, right? If I feel hurt and rejected I’m going to do whatever I can to compensate for that, to close the gap.
When someone rejects you…
…it’s tempting to armor up, put on the façade, and start the legend building to show the world “I’m good. It’s all good.” It’s our bid for acceptance. This is because the greatest needs of human existence are to be loved and accepted. Our greatest fear is to be rejected. So, we put someone “out there” that isn’t us, someone we think the world will accept. All the while we know they are accepting the manufactured “us,” not the real us.
At some point during my mother’s alcohol-soaked years, I believed the lie that I was responsible for my parents’ dysfunctional marriage. Under the wet blanket of her rejection, I desperately felt the need to show the world that I was “okay.” My way of doing this was to jump on the rollercoaster of performance pride by excelling in athletics, getting degrees, and writing books.
Pride through performance was my addiction, my way of coping with rejection, but the pride I demonstrated only served to produce more rejection. I medicated by becoming an elite athlete, but guess what? Eventually, someone else becomes better than you. When I got beat I felt a sense of rejection. When your identity is tied to your performance you are on incredibly shaky ground.
Rejection is built into the book business as well.
Our first book was a world-wide bestseller. Cool, but what happens when book numbers two and three aren’t? What happens when the world moves on to other bestselling authors? More rejection. More shame. More insecurity.
Can you see the cycle here? Rejection nurtures pride and prideful behavior cultivates more rejection. Perhaps another example will make this even more clear.
Imagine a terribly insecure person whose marriage implodes. The failed marriage puts another weld on the bar of rejection and fosters even more insecurity which often shows up in self-indulgent, critical, sometimes mean, and self-defensive behavior. Because of insecurity, this person can’t bear to dig deep, look in the mirror, and ask, “Why am I critical, over-controlling, and self-indulgent? What wounds and insecurities in me contribute to my arrogance and unattractive ways of being?”
Because this person is unwilling to be humble…
face the brutal facts of reality, and get his or her secrets out into the light, they have little chance of being healed. People react to his or her prideful behavior how? By avoiding it. More rejection, right? So, he or she compensates for this insecurity by armoring up in more ways that are unhelpful and unbecoming. This person’s irritating character pushes people away which encourages more prideful behavior to quell the pain of rejection.
Can you see the vicious cycle? It’s a sad, downward spiral into loneliness because pride and rejection breed more pride and rejection.
Imagine what could happen if this person experienced the relentless affection of a Father who delighted in them…unconditionally? What would it look like to have a true, bullet-proof friend like Jesus who never wavered and was ALWAYS in the trenches with them? Who would never leave or forsake them…even in their most unbecoming ways? What if they had the guidance of the Spirit of God leading them deeper into the heart of the Father and the Son who are for them? What would happen if they could accept their acceptance? How would their life be different if they genuinely lived loved?
Perhaps they would experience the freedom to trade a lack of self- awareness, self-indulgence, and criticism for seeking feedback, being other- centered, affirming, and graceful. In turn, people would be more affectionate, loving, and accepting toward them which would produce more security, vulnerability, and intimacy.
One cycle is based on love and acceptance. The other is based on rejection.
Can you find yourself in this scenario?
What does this have to do with Christmas?
In an astonishing display of humility, God (Father, Son, Spirit) came to show us who he is. If you want to know the temperament, persona and modus operandi of God, look to the patience, kindness, accessibility, and self-giving, other-centered love of Jesus. He is the ultimate revelation of who God is.
Once you get this…really get this, you will know what it means to live loved. If your mom and dad never matched up to what a mother and father should be (and many don’t), God says, “Let me Father you. Let me be the mother you never had… you can trust me.” If your siblings are distanced and estranged, Jesus says, “When you hit the trenches in life I will be there…with you…I will never leave or desert you.” If your family is messed up, the Father, Son, and Spirit say, “You are our family. You are included. You belong here. We love you with the same love we have for each other.”
When this truth touches the marrow of your soul…
it will produce an inner security, and unearthly assurance that says, “You are enough. You can stop trying to pose and pretend you are someone you aren’t. You can stop building the façade. You can stop grinding gears. You can stop self-protection and self-promotion and be yourself.”
“You are free!”
This is the Trinity’s love for us.
This is the reason Jesus came.
This, is the ultimate gift of Christmas!