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Advent 2017 Devotional—December 16th

Settle yourself into prayer and get ready to reflect on the Word of

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.
Philippians 2:7b-11

It’s been said that there are two kinds of people: those who walk into a room and say, “Well, here I am!” and those who walk into a room and say, “Ah, there you are!” The humble Son of God was like the latter. From His cradle to His cross Jesus was there for others. He was, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “a Man for others.”

Locked away in a Gestapo prison Bonhoeffer drew strength from knowing that “Jesus is there only for others.” (Letters and Papers from Prison) For Jesus it was never about Him, but about others, as He came not to be served but to serve. There was no self-seeking in Jesus, no need for self-promotion. Secure in knowing who He was and that He was loved by the Father, Jesus poured out life for others.

The prophet Isaiah foretold the humble manner in which Jesus went about His life: “He won’t call attention to what he does with loud speeches or gaudy parades. He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant” (Isaiah 42:2-3, The Message).

I had a professor tell us to write two words at the bottom of every sermon: “So what?” So what is the practical import of this sermon? What does it mean for us this week? I often think of those words “So what?” as I read Paul’s letters. He is always quick to get to the “So what?” for us. His take-away for us in the Christ Hymn is: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5). That is Paul’s greatest and loftiest theology applied in the most practical and down-to-earth way.

For us to have the “mind of Christ” means to be humble like Jesus, always considering others. We are the ones who walk into a room and say, “Ah, there you are!” Humility is more than just a nice word; humility means, “to climb down from the throne of self on which one sits.” (Karl Barth, Epistle to the Philippians)

Theologian David Wells writes about the freedom from the tyranny of self that comes with humility:

The emancipation that the Gospel offers, after all, is not only from the judgment of God but from the tyranny of self as well. Its freedom is, in part, the freedom to be forgetful of the self in its imperious demands and its insatiable appetite for attention, the freedom to think that God is important in and of himself and not simply in relation to what he can do for us. It is the freedom of knowing that we are not in the center of the universe, not even in the center of our own private universe. Those who have best learned this kind of godliness know that what may seem like the most awful loss is actually true liberation.” (Losing Our Virtue)

The bottom line, the ‘So what?’, is that Jesus looks at greatness and says, “We’re going to do it another way! If anyone wants to be great, let him be a servant” (see Matthew 20:26).


  • What does it mean to you that Jesus was “a Man for others”?
  • How do you think that humility can be a freedom from the tyranny of self?
  • What is your “So what?” from today’s reading?

“Christ’s humility consisted in his abasing himself from the highest pinnacle
of glory to the lowest ignominy: our humility consists in refraining from
exalting ourselves by a false estimation. He gave up his right: all that is
required of us is, that we do not assume to ourselves more than we ought.”
John Calvin, Commentary on Philippians

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